In Cuba, Thousands Took to the Streets to Protest Regime and ‘Economic Misery’

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Currents News Staff

Protesters took to the streets in Havana calling for liberty, creating the largest mass protests in years, perhaps decades. 

In front of police, the crowd yelled ‘fatherland and life,’ a new opposition slogan that has led to many arrests. Usually any anti-government activity leads to immediate arrest. 

On Sunday, July 11, Cuba seemed to be a very different place as thousands of people in cities across the island took to the streets and took the government by surprise.

Thousands of people voiced their anger openly and many people told Currents News they simply had lost their fear. Police surrounded the protesters and arrested some of them, but for the most part they did not or could not stop the demonstrations.

The protests are only the latest sign of the unprecedented crisis facing the communist-run island.

Even as Cuba produces its own home-grown vaccines, the number of COVID cases has skyrocketed. On Sunday, health officials announced the highest single day increase in new cases and deaths.

For months, the Cuban economy has spiraled further downwards. The island has been hard hit by increased U.S. sanctions under the Trump administration, which have continued under President Biden.

The pandemic has cut off tourism and the ability to receive help from relatives abroad for many Cubans. Lines for food now stretch around the block and can last for hours.

For many in Cuba, waiting for scarce food and medicines has become their life.

“Every day there are people out here for whatever there is. Some days, you don’t even know what products they’re going to be selling,” Rachel said. “You have to be out here if you want to have food.”

The economic misery is already leading to desperation as Cubans are now taking to the sea on rafts and the greatest numbers since 2017, when then President Obama ended the wet foot dry foot policy that allowed Cubans reaching us to stay.

Cuba is confronting the worst crisis in decades without a Castro at the helm, as Raul Castro stepped down from his last leadership role in April. On Sunday, Cuba’s new leader, Miguel Diaz Canel, blamed the island’s economic troubles on the U.S. and vowed to crack down on the protesters.

“The order to combat has been given,” he said. “Revolutionaries need to be in the streets.”

Cuba edges closer to the edge, neither side appears they’re backing down.