Cuba experienced yesterday, Sunday, an unusual day of protests against the government in different parts of the country. Shouting “freedom” and “down with the dictatorship”, large groups of demonstrators took to the streets in different towns, including the capital, Havana, to protest against government abuses and the dire economic situation they suffer.

The images, which were not broadcast by the official media but were widely circulated through social networks, showed concentrations of demonstrators not seen on the island since the so-called Special Period of the 1990s, when after the fall of the USSR, Cubans were plunged into a fierce economic crisis. The terrible economic consequences of the pandemic and the deprivations suffered by Cubans have once again sparked outrage.

The demonstrations began in the town of San Antonio de los Baños, southwest of Havana, where hundreds of people gathered called by social networks, but later spread to the capital and major cities such as Santiago de Cuba or Pinar del Río.

In a country as accustomed to hardship as to the docility of its population before the authorities, official alarms were soon triggered and the president, Miguel Diaz-Canel, made an unusual call to curb the protests.

“We are summoning all the revolutionaries of the country, all the communists, to take to the streets and go to the places where these provocations are going to occur,” said the Castro’s successor in an unusual message broadcast by all the state radio and television networks.

Diaz-Canel’s reaction aggravates the fear that there could be episodes of violence and reflects the immense uneasiness in the Castro elite in view of the images that showed demonstrators blocking roads and launching proclamations against the dictatorship in Havana’s Malecon and other emblematic spaces in Cuba.

Diaz-Canel resorted to the most warmongering rhetoric to deal with the overflowing popular discontent. “The order to fight has been given, the revolutionaries to the streets”, he cried out in his extraordinary appearance in the state media.

A neighbor of San Antonio explained how it all began. “People started shouting, there are horrible blackouts, of six hours, this does not stop, and it is every day. They started walking, very peaceful, the only thing they were doing was shouting. There were a lot of young people.

His testimony attests to the frustration of Cubans, of which signs have accumulated in recent months, with no response from the government other than repression.

The dissident artists’ collective Movimiento San Isidro staged different acts of protest and its most prominent member, Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara, was arrested after starting a hunger strike against the seizure of his artwork by state security. The song Patria y vida, composed by a group of Cuban musicians to denounce the legacy of more than 60 years of communist rule in Cuba, went viral and received numerous expressions of support on the Internet.

The outburst of indignation comes at a critical moment for Castroism. The last Communist Party Congress confirmed the departure of Raul Castro from all his posts and his successor is trying to carry out painful economic reforms, postponed for decades, to clean up the decrepit economy of the island precisely when the pandemic has deprived the government of income from tourism, its usual lifeline.

The situation has deteriorated to such an extent, with inflation skyrocketing and Cubans struggling daily with long lines for food and medicine, that many have found no alternative but to cry out “enough is enough” to communism.

The OAS condemns the Cuban government

The Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS), Luis Almagro, expressed his condemnation of Cuba’s “dictatorial regime” for “calling on civilians to repress” demonstrators and promoting confrontation against those who lead anti-government protests.

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) denounced in several messages on Twitter that it has received information on the “use of force, arrests, aggressions against demonstrators and journalists, in addition to Internet signal cuts” and points out that the protests have been called “due to the shortage of food and medicines, and the lack of guarantees for freedom of expression and plural participation on matters of public interest”.

The exile leaders, grouped in the Cuban Resistance Assembly, stressed that the exit of the Castro regime “is not negotiable” and asked the Cuban people to continue in the streets because it is the only way to achieve their goal.

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