For the first time in decades, a crowd staged a series of protests in Cuba against the tyranny of Miguel Diaz-Canel and the Communist Party of Cuba (CPC). An unusual event in a country where the only authorized rallies are those of the ruling party, while those of the opposition are usually cruelly repressed. This is the largest protest in the recent history of the island.
Fed up with the economic crisis, food and medicine shortages, and the increase in cases of the coronavirus, the protests began spontaneously and spread through the streets of Havana. Subsequently, the communist regime sent hundreds of armed officials to repress and persecute the demonstrators.
What triggered the protests in Cuba?
On Sunday, July 11, hundreds of Cubans took to the streets shouting “Freedom!” and “Down with the dictatorship! What started as a demonstration in the city of San Antonio de los Baños, southwest of Havana, gradually spread.
The demonstrations are taking place in the midst of complaints about collapsed health centers and after months of shortages of basic necessities.
The protests were triggered by complaints about lack of vaccines, shortage of medicines, limited free access to food, and precarious Internet access.
The role of social media
The initial protest, in San Antonio de los Baños, was organized on Saturday through social media and planned for this Sunday. The rest of the demonstrations emerged as videos and photographs of what was happening in the streets were released.
Under the keywords #SOSCuba or #SOSMatanzas (the name of the province most affected by the COVID), requests for help on social networks multiplied, as well as calls for the regime to facilitate the sending of donations from abroad.
“We saw the protest on the networks and people started to come out. This is the day, we can’t take it anymore,” a young Cuban told the BBC via telephone. “There is no food, no medicine, no freedom. They won’t let us live. We’ve had enough,” he added.
The Cuban regime assures that social networks are used by the “enemies of the revolution” to create “destabilization strategies” that follow CIA manuals.
Reaction of the regime: counter-demonstrations and censorship
After learning of the protests on the island, the dictator Díaz-Canel called on his supporters to take to the streets. “The combat order is given, to the streets the revolutionaries,” Diaz-Canel said in a televised address, where he also accused what the regime calls “the Cuban-American mafia” of being behind the uprising.
“We are calling on all the revolutionaries of the country, the communists, to take to the streets wherever these provocations are going to take place, from now and in all these days. And to confront them with decisiveness, with firmness, with courage,” he added.
While calling for a counter-march, the tyranny sent the police to disperse the protests with tear gas and plastic pipes to beat demonstrators.
Dozens of people were also detained while an internet blackout was carried out, making it impossible to report what was happening in the streets.
Injuries and arrests
There was strong repression by police officers in all the demonstrations reported in several provinces, such as Artemisa, Matanzas, Camagüey, Santiago de Cuba, Cienfuegos, and Havana.
In Camagüey, several residents have denounced that the dictatorship deployed special troops and other uniformed agents to try to stop the demonstrators. In the clashes two young people were wounded, “one in the leg and the other in the stomach”, activist María Antonia Pachecho, who was at the protest, told 14ymedio.
According to the Movimiento San Isidro, there are at least 80 people detained or missing after the protests, including Jose Daniel Ferrer, a well-known opposition leader, who has been repeatedly beaten and detained by the Cuban tyranny.