Cuba protests spread to Miami as president threatens ‘battle in the streets’

‘We call on all revolutionaries of the country, all communists, to go out in the streets where these provocations occur... and to face them in a decisive, firm and courageous way,’ Cuban president says

Gustaf Kilander,Namita Singh
Monday 12 July 2021 14:02 BST
Related video: Thousands join rare anti-government protests in Cuba
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Thousands in Miami joined protests in solidarity with the Cuban people rallying against their government because of food and vaccine shortages amid rising prices.

Cubans in the thousands also protested on Sunday against the government of President and Communist Party leader Miguel Díaz Canel, as the island sees a spike in cases of Covid-19 and its most difficult economic crisis in decades.

The country is also struggling with the sanctions imposed by the Trump administration after President Barack Obama tried to normalize relations with the country.

Sunday’s protest was one of the biggest anti-government demonstrations in memory, the Associated Press writes.

Thousands of Miamians came out in support of the protests in the Little Havana neighbourhood on Sunday.

Videos shared on social media shows people dancing and singing, while some were carrying signs and waving flags.

The Miami Police Department shut down the area for the demonstration and authorities urged people to “avoid the area until further notice”.

Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava tweeted: “We stand united with the Cuban people on the island and across our community at this historic moment in the struggle for freedom, dignity, and basic human rights – may their courageous actions bring about real change and move us closer to the dream of a free Cuba.”

The Miami police chief told a Miami Herald reporter that they estimated that there were about 5,000 at the protest in solidarity with Cuba, adding that there had been no arrests, but one medical emergency.

Mr Díaz Canel pushed what he said was his country’s “revolutionary” citizens to counter the protests and blamed the US for stoking fury among the Cuban people.

“We are prepared to do anything,” he said. “We will be battling in the streets.”

President Biden’s national security adviser Jake Sullivan tweeted: “US supports freedom of expression and assembly across Cuba, and would strongly condemn any violence or targeting of peaceful protesters who are exercising their universal rights.”

Reuters reported that Cuba is facing its worst economic decline since the fall of the Soviet Union.

Some protesters during the demonstrations that erupted in several cities across the island nation from the capital Havana to Santiago, called for “freedom” and “democracy” as they voiced their anger over shortages of several basic goods, such as vaccines, to tackle the pandemic.

Attempts to upload photos and videos of the protests to social media were curbed by Cuban authorities who shut down Internet services throughout the afternoon in Havana.

“We are fed up with the queues, the shortages. That’s why I’m here,” a protester told the AP, asking to remain anonymous for fear of being arrested.

Police began detaining people about two and a half hours into the protest in Havana after some started pulling up cobblestones off the streets and throwing them at police.

About 20 people were taken away in police cars, or by individuals in civilian clothes. Police used pepper spray on a few protesters and charged some with batons, but did not directly confront thousands who chanted “freedom”.

Soon after, about 300 government supporters reached protest sites and began shouting slogans in favour of former president Fidel Castro, who died at the age of 90 in 2016, and the Cuban revolution.

In a nationally televised speech, President Miguel Diaz-Canel blamed the US for the unrest as he called on the supporters of the government to confront “provocations".

“We call on all revolutionaries of the country, all communists, to go out in the streets where these provocations occur... and to face them in a decisive, firm and courageous way,” Mr Diaz-Canel said.

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