The shortage of food during the pandemic provokes mass protests throughout the island that the regime tries to repress by force
The pandemic seems to have ended the historical patience of Cubans, used to living permanently with hardships. Thousands of people took to the streets of numerous municipalities in eleven provinces of the island this Sunday to carry out unprecedented protests against the Government due to the shortage of food and medicine in the context of the health crisis that is hitting the country.
It all started in the rural municipality of San Antonio de los Baños, located about 33 kilometers southwest of Havana and with about 50,000 inhabitants. With shouts like “Homeland and life”, “Down with the dictatorship!” or “we are not afraid”, the protesters showed their discomfort.
In a video that spread with great speed through social networks – the event was broadcast live on Facebook – a woman can be heard saying “oh my God!” And people shouting that they want “freedom” and even insults against the president, Miguel Díaz-Canel, leader of the regime once the Castro family seems to have stepped aside after the death of Fidel and the retirement of Raúl.
Faced with the unusual public protest, Diaz-Canel himself appeared in San Antonio, who in an act of response held in a plaza in that town with a group of supporters launched a proclamation in which he blamed the United States embargo against the Island.
But far from serving as a brake, the contagion effect immediately spread the demonstrations to Havana, Guantánamo, Malecón, San José, Regla, Artemisa, Mayabeque, Villa Clara, Camagüey, Holguín, Granma, Santiago de Cuba, Matanzas … Endless mobilizations that also took place in exile, especially in Miami, but also in Spain, Peru or Argentina after spreading the news through social networks.
More than the ‘maleconazo’
At night the regime began to respond with police deployments, which soon led to complaints about the violence wielded by the agents, according to eyewitness accounts. There were also reportedly quite a few arrests after people confronted the security forces with machetes and stones. Internet service was also interrupted.
It is the largest anti-government protest that has been registered in Cuba since the so-called ‘maleconazo’, when in August 1994, in the middle of the “special period”, hundreds of people took to the streets of Havana and did not leave until it arrived. the then Cuban leader Fidel Castro.
Since the coronavirus pandemic began in March 2020, Cubans have been forced to stand in long lines to stock up on food, a situation that has been compounded by a severe shortage of medicines and other basic products, which has generated widespread social unrest .
The protest occurred on a day in which Cuba registered another record number of COVID-19 infections in 24 hours, with 6,923, for a total of 238,491, and deaths, with 47 (1,537). “These are alarming figures, which are increasing every day,” said Francisco Durán, the head of Epidemiology of the Ministry of Health, in his usual press conference on state television.
The situation is especially tense in the tourist province of Matanzas, located about a hundred kilometers east of Havana, where the high number of infections can cause health services to collapse.
Under the labels #SOSCuba, #SOSMatanzas or #SalvemosCuba, among others, appeals for help are multiplying on social networks, but also claims to the Government to facilitate the sending of donations from abroad. “Mundo Cuba needs your help!” The famous musical duo Gente de Zona, made up of reggaeton artists Randy Malcom and Alexander Delgado, claimed on Twitter. His initiative was shared on the social network by other renowned artists in the region such as Daddy Yankee, Becky G, Natti Natasha and the singer René Pérez (Resident of Calle 13), among others.
Already on Saturday an opposition group asked to establish “a humanitarian corridor”, an initiative that the Government ruled out. “The concepts related to the humanitarian corridor and humanitarian aid are associated with conflict zones and do not apply to Cuba,” Ernesto Soberón, director of Consular Affairs and Attention to Cuban Residents Abroad, said at a press conference.
Soberón also denounced “a campaign” that seeks to “present an image of total chaos in the country that does not correspond to the current situation.” However, the official announced that the Government will set up an email account this Monday to expedite donations from abroad.