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Large police presence in the Cuban capital day after thousands of protests

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A day after thousands of protesters took to the streets on Cuba’s streets in the rare protest against the island nation’s economic crisis, large contingents of police were sent to patrol the capital, Havana, and the island nation’s president is embargoing the widespread US Food shortages were responsible for fuel, medicines and other goods during the pandemic.

President Miguel Díaz-Canel said Monday that a “policy of economic suffocation” will have “cumulative effects” across Cuba.

He and his administration officials said U.S. sanctions against Cuba contributed to power outages and limited access to food and medical care during the pandemic.

Regarding the economic problems in Cuban society and the reasons why some protested, Díaz-Canel said: “What is its origin, what is its cause? It is the blockade.”

Díaz-Canel said the Cuban protests were the result of a US and social media campaign to manipulate people while the island was in distress during the pandemic.

Thousands of Cubans took to the streets across the country on Sunday shouting anti-government slogans such as “We want freedom” and “We are no longer afraid”.

Human rights groups and opposition activists reported that dozens were missing or arrested on the Monday following the protests. However, Internet connection failures made it difficult to determine the scope of the arrests.

Cuban police patrolled the capital Havana in large numbers on Monday, according to the Associated Press.

A man was arrested on Sunday during a demonstration against the government of Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel in Havana.Yamil Location / AFP – Getty Images

Díaz-Canel said it was legitimate to “have dissatisfaction, but we also need to be able to visualize, define when we are being manipulated, where they want to separate us”.

He said forces who want to appear as “saviors” to Cuba “are not interested in people’s health”.

“You want to change a system or what you call a regime to put what kind of government and what kind of regime in Cuba? The privatization of public services. The kind that gives more opportunities to the rich minority and not to the majority. “

Cuba’s health minister said the embargo affected Cuba’s ability to fight the virus through restrictions on drugs and supplies used to manufacture drugs, as well as equipment such as ventilators.

Díaz-Canel also condemned what he called the “Cuban Mafia” in Miami, referring to Cuban-American parishioners and lawmakers who oppose the communist government.

Cuba is currently facing the worst economic crisis in decades after the Soviet Union collapsed and exacerbated by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. The pandemic has brought tourism, which was a key driver of the island’s economy, to a standstill. The country has since experienced food shortages, power outages, and increasing coronavirus cases.

There has also been an increase in repression against political opponents and a strained healthcare system at a critical time in the pandemic. Health officials reported nearly 7,000 new cases and 47 deaths – a record for infections and deaths in the Caribbean island of just over 11 million people.

Plainclothes police arrested a demonstrator in Havana on Sunday.Ramon Espinosa / AP

In Havana, protests disrupted traffic on Sunday until the police moved in after several hours and broke off the march when some demonstrators threw stones, according to the AP.

“We’re fed up with the queues, the bottlenecks. That’s why I’m here, ”a middle-aged protester told AP. He refused to provide identification for fear of being arrested later.

Later, around 300 pro-government protesters arrived with a large Cuban flag shouting slogans in favor of the late President Fidel Castro and the Cuban Revolution, the AP reported. Some attacked an AP video journalist and smashed his camera. AP photojournalist Ramón Espinosa was subsequently beaten by a group of uniformed police in plain clothes; he suffered a broken nose and an eye injury.

The demonstration grew to a few thousand near Galeano Avenue and protesters continued despite some charges from police officers and tear gas bans, the AP reported.

Despite many people trying to take out their cell phones and broadcast the protest live, the Cuban authorities shut down the internet service all afternoon.

After more than two hours of marching, some protesters picked up cobblestones and threw them at the police, whereupon officials began arresting people and dispersed the protesters.

AP journalists counted at least 20 people who were taken away in police cars or by people in plain clothes.

In Miami, hundreds of people gathered in the Little Havana neighborhood to show solidarity with the growing protests in Cuba. “I know that my family has problems in Cuba, people are dying. It’s horrible, ”Miami-based Christian Guzmán told NBC station WTVJ.

“It’s hard at the moment. There is no food, no medicine. The Covid outbreak. The whole country is on the streets, ”said Miami-based Darío Suárez.

Díaz-Canel previously appeared on national television asking the army to face the demonstrators: “The order to fight has been given,” he said.

Díaz-Canel also urged “all revolutionaries in the country, all communists, to take to the streets and go to the places where these provocations will take place”.

US President Joe Biden said on Monday that he recognized the “remarkable protests in Cuba” and had not seen such demonstrations for a long time, “to be honest, never”.

Biden said the US “stands firm with the people of Cuba in asserting their universal rights” and urged the government to “refrain from violence” or “try to silence the demonstrators”.

In a statement early Monday, Biden said the Cuban protests were a “call to freedom”.

“We stand by the side of the Cuban people and their 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 exposed by the authoritarian regime of Cuba,” Biden said in a statement.

“The United States urges the Cuban regime to listen to its people and, at this crucial moment, serve their needs rather than enrich itself,” he added.

Also on Monday, the Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador called for an end to the US embargo against Cuba.

“The truth is that if you want to help Cuba, the first thing you should do is lift the blockade on Cuba, as the majority of the world’s countries are demanding,” Lopez Obrador said at a press conference, according to Reuters.

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