US condemns ‘intimidation tactics’ by Cuban government ahead of planned protests for political freedoms

Secretary of State Antony Blinken says the US ‘stands with the people of Cuba’ as people prepare to take to the streets for the Civic March for Change on Monday

Rachel Sharp
Sunday 14 November 2021 21:40 GMT
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(AFP via Getty Images)

The US has condemned what it called the “intimidation tactics” of the Cuban government ahead of planned protests on Monday calling for greater political freedoms.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken released a lengthy statement on Sunday saying the US “stands with the people of Cuba” and calling on the Cuban government to “listen to the voices of their people”.

Protesters will take to the streets across the country for the Civic March for Change on Monday to demonstrate against the nation’s Communist government regime, to demand the release of political activists and to call for freedom and democracy.

This comes after thousands first took to the streets in July in what marked the largest protests Cuba had seen in more than two decades.

The anti-government protests were triggered by shortages of food, medicine and other basic goods, repeated power cuts and the government’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Cuban government responded with violence and hundreds of demonstrators are still being held behind bars four months on.

The country was also plunged into an internet blackout to prevent the flow of information about the protests and the government response.

Now, protesters are also calling for the release of these political prisoners.

Mr Blinken slammed the Cuban government over its treatment of its citizens during the summer protests in his statement on Sunday.

“In July, the people of Cuba bravely and spontaneously took to the streets to demand change from their government: respect for human rights, greater freedom of expression, and an end to economic mismanagement by an authoritarian regime that has failed to meet their most basic needs,” he said.

“The Cuban regime responded with violence, censorship, arrests, and summary trials, denying their citizens their rights to freedom of expression and freedom of peaceful assembly.”

Mr Blinken warned that the Cuban government is expected to respond in a similar way to Monday’s demonstrations.

“The Cuban government has already made clear that it does not want to listen; the regime has denied permission for the protests, dismissed opposition supporters from their jobs, and threatened dissenters with imprisonment,” he said.

“We strongly condemn these intimidation tactics.

“We call on the Cuban government to respect Cubans’ rights, by allowing them to peacefully assemble and use their voices without fear of government reprisal or violence, and by keeping Internet and telecommunication lines open for the free exchange of information.”

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken called on Cuba to ‘listen to the voices of their people’ and warned that the US will pursue ‘accountability’
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken called on Cuba to ‘listen to the voices of their people’ and warned that the US will pursue ‘accountability’ (REUTERS)

He added: “We urge the Cuban government to reject violence, and instead, embrace this historic opportunity to listen to the voices of their people.”

Mr Blinken called on other “democratic partners” worldwide to join the US in its support of Cuban citizens and in “calling on the Cuban government to respect those exercising their rights in peaceful protest on November 15, and to release all those unjustly detained”.

In a warning to the Cuban government, Mr Blinken said “the United States stands with the people of Cuba” and will seek “accountability”.

“The United States will continue to pursue measures that both support the Cuban people and promote accountability for the Cuban regime’s repression and human rights violations,” he said.

Cuba’s communist government, headed by President Miguel Díaz-Canel, has banned the protest and accused the US of trying to “organize and promote a destabilizing provocation”.

Following the summer protests, tensions have escalated further between the US and Cuba.

President Joe Biden imposed sanctions on Cuban officials and security forces involved in human rights abuses during the government crackdown.

The president had vowed to reverse many of the Donald Trump-era restrictions on the country around travel and trade if he took the White House.

Mr Trump had backtracked on the landmark policies reached between the US and Cuba under Barack Obama.

But President Biden has held off on re-engaging with Cuba amid the ongoing turmoil in the country and is expected to be eyeing the government’s response to the protests this time around.

More than 100 cities across the globe will join with the people of Cuba to stage protests on 15 November including in Miami, where there is a large Cuban community.

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