Protests erupted in cities throughout Cuba this weekend as citizens nationwide took to the streets to call for an end to communism and increasingly dire conditions in the pandemic-torn country.
Beginning in the city of San Antonio de los Banos outside of Havana, word of the protests spread quickly throughout the island nation via social media, a relatively new commodity to Cuba, having only been given access to 3G mobile internet 2 and a half years ago by the authoritarian Cuban government. As more people joined in the protests, chanting “Freedom!” and calling for Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel to step down, pro-government counter-protesters and state police clashed with them in violent showdowns in several cities.
Scenes of bloodied protesters who had engaged with police were posted on social media over the weekend. The protests are the largest the country has seen since the Maleconazo uprising in the mid-1990s, when Cubans widely demonstrated against then-leader Fidel Castro’s government, ultimately leading to the exodus of over 35,000 Cubans who left the country on various boats for the United States.
Diaz-Canel took to the airwaves on Friday, urging pro-government revolutionaries to confront “provocations” and engage with protesters on the streets. He addressed the nation again on Monday, calling the protesters “vulgar criminals” and accused them of trying to “fracture the country.”
On Monday, Biden addressed the situation in Cuba in a public statement, saying, “We stand with the Cuban people and their clarion call for freedom and relief from the tragic grip of the pandemic and from the decades of repression and economic suffering to which they have been subjected by Cuba’s authoritarian regime.”
Biden also warned Cuban officials against violence against their own citizens during these protests, warning, “We call on the government, the government of Cuba, to refrain from violence, their attempts to silence the people of Cuba.” Protests are expected to continue this week as the COVID-19 pandemic tightens its grip on the island nation, and food and medicine remain scarce.
ARTICLE: LAURA SPIVAK
MANAGING EDITOR: CARSON CHOATE
PHOTO CREDITS: FILM DAILY
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