Written by Vedika Pathania, a second-year student.
Why are the people in Cuba protesting?
Over the last week, Cubans have taken to the streets in cities across the country. Thousands of Cubans flocked to the streets on Sunday to protest the country’s communist leadership, in what are considered to be the country’s largest demonstrations in almost three decades.
Authorities have arrested dozens of protestors in the demonstrations, which have been fueled by a deteriorating economy and the government’s handling of the Covid-19 outbreak. Food shortages and a lack of essential medicines are also causing concern among Cubans. Cuba’s Gross Domestic Product declined by 11% in 2020 as a result of the coronavirus outbreak, according to the island’s economy minister, the largest drop since the Soviet Union collapsed in the early 1990s.
Discontent has been fueled by rising global food prices this year, as well as the island’s devalued currency, as well as shortages of basic necessities that precede the pandemic.
Since Sunday, both pro-and anti-government demonstrators have taken to the streets. Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel blamed the demonstrations on US sanctions, accusing the US of “economic asphyxiation.” However, he is also conceding — for the first time — that Cuban government policies have played a role.
Because government opponents in Cuba risk heavy consequences for criticism, the protests are important.
What are the demands of the protesters?
While many people were angry over the shortages, there were also calls for political change in the country, which is ruled by the Communist Party, an authoritarian government. “Liberty!” and “Down with the dictatorship!” were chanted by several demonstrators. Protesters chanted “freedom” and demanded that President Miguel Diaz-Canel stand down.
What is the Cuban government doing?
Diaz-Canel has blamed the protests on the US, claiming that “sincere protesters” have been “manipulated” by social media operations coordinated by the US and “mercenaries” on the ground. The President has issued a threat of action and urged followers to “confront provocations.”
The government has also taken some initiatives to alleviate the economic misery, albeit the consequences have yet to be realised. Cuba stated earlier this month that private enterprises will be allowed to operate in most sectors of the economy. At the time, Labour Minister Elena Feito stated that the number of authorised industries had increased from 127 to over 2,000 as a result of the new regulations.
According to the Reuters news agency, security police, aided by plainclothes agents, arrested dozens of anti-government protestors. Security officers seemed to be arresting, assaulting, and pepper-spraying some of the protestors, according to social media images. There were reports of internet outages around the island, and an Associated Press photographer was hurt in a clash with security personnel.
Why does the Cuban Government partly blame the United States?
Since 1960, the United States, Cuba’s 145-kilometer (90-mile) northern neighbour and former major economic partner, has maintained a trade blockade against the island in an attempt to oust its communist government. Although the embargo, which is a form of severe economic restrictions, has not accomplished its aim, it has made life more difficult for regular Cubans. Medicine, food, and a variety of other items are all in limited supply. The embargo has also given the island’s administration ammo to allege that the United States is to blame for the island’s economic difficulties.
What is the role of social media in these protests?
Following the largest anti-government rallies in decades, Cuba has blocked access to social media and messaging services like Facebook and WhatsApp. According to experts, these tools have provided a forum for Cubans to express and magnify their discontent, as well as allowing information to spread fast when people are out on the streets. Many Cubans learnt of protests through messaging apps like WhatsApp and Facebook.
What have the protests achieved till now?
The Cuban government stated it will relax customs limits on food, medication, and hygiene items brought into the nation by visitors, but it’s unclear how much of a difference this would make given that tourism is still down due to the virus. More generally, the demonstrations have drawn attention to Cubans’ misery and highlighted long-standing concerns that require immediate seriousness.
Where’s Cuba on the world map?
Key points summarised
- Thousands of Cubans flocked to the streets on Sunday to protest the country’s communist leadership and the government’s handling of the Covid-19 outbreak
- Discontent has been fueled by rising global food prices this year, as well as the island’s devalued currency, as well as shortages of basic necessities
- There were also calls for political change in the country, which is ruled by the Communist Party
- Diaz-Canel has blamed the protests on the US which has maintained a trade blockade against the island in an attempt to oust its communist government.
- Many Cubans learnt of protests through messaging apps like WhatsApp and Facebook.
- The Cuban government stated it will relax customs limits on food, medication, and hygiene items