Miami expressway brought to a standstill by protesters supporting Cubans

More than 100 activists held by government or missing in Cuba say campaigners

Andrew Buncombe
Seattle
Tuesday 13 July 2021 20:35
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President Biden shows support for Cuban protesters
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Miami’s Palmetto Expressway was brought to a halt by protesters showing support for the people of Cuba, after the biggest anti-government protests on the island in three decades.

Traffic was stopped in both directions, as demonstrators marched on the Miami-Dade highway.

More than 100 activists are being held by the authorities or are currently missing in Cuba, say campaigners.

Cuban authorities deployed riot police after the weekend saw some of the biggest protests to rock the island in perhaps 30 years.

The protests appear to have been triggered by a combination of mounting economic hardship, and the government’s faltering response to a new spike in Covid infections. The fact that millions of people now have access to social media helped the protests spread.

On Tuesday it was reported that more than 100 activists had been arrested or else were missing. Reuters said the exiled rights group Cubalex had said some of those detained were arrested at the protests on Sunday, while others were detained as they sought to leave their homes.

“It’s becoming impossible to live here,” one Havana resident, Maykel, 21, who declined to give his surname for fear of retaliation, told the news agency. “I don’t know if this can happen again, because at the moment, Havana is militarised.”

He added: “Still, Cubans are losing their fear.”

Among those detained by the authorities was a journalist, Camila Acosta, who was working for Spain’s ABC newspaper.

Spanish foreign minister Jose Manuel Albares on Tuesday called on Cuba to immediately release Ms Acosta, who had been detained the day before.

“Spain defends the right to demonstrate freely and peacefully and asks the Cuban authorities to respect it ... We demand the immediate release of Camila Acosta,” tweeted Mr Albares,

On Sunday, Ms Acosta had posted a series of images and reports from the protests, that took place in several of the nation’s largest cities.

“Today I witnessed the violence and repression against peaceful protesters in #LaHabana, of the hatred of the Cuban regime and its crude manipulations,” she wrote in one post.

“Those of us who take to the streets are motivated by the love of freedom and #Cuba, because we want to live in a better country, without hate.”

It was also reported that a leading dissident was detained while trying to join a protest in Santiago, the country’s second largest city.

Many of the protesters were reportedly calling for the resignation of President Miguel Díaz-Canel, who also took on the portfolio of First Secretary of the Communist Party, after Raul Castro, brother of the late Fidel Castro, stood down in April.

Mr Díaz-Canel blamed the US economic blockade of the island, dating back as far as 1958, as adding to his nation’s problems.

“We’ve seen how the campaign against Cuba was growing on social media in the past few weeks,” Mr Díaz-Canel said in a nationally televised appearance.

“That’s the way it’s done: Try to create inconformity, dissatisfaction by manipulating emotions and feelings.”

Thousands rally against government in Cuba over food shortages and high prices

Meanwhile, Joe Biden, who had been in favour of normalising relations with Cuba when he was part of Barack Obama’s administration, said Cuban protesters were asserting their basic rights.

“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,″ Mr Biden said in a statement.

Meanwhile on Tuesday, Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, speaking at a news conference, said the tough situation in Cuba was “basically” due to the US economic embargo against the country. 

His country has offered to help Cuba following the protests.

Additional reporting by agencies

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