HAVANA, CUBA – Small protests broke out on Thursday and Friday across several communities in Cuba, as desperate residents took to the streets to demand that the government restore power and provide aid to areas. Areas ravaged by Hurricane Ian, which swept across the island nation this week, are worsening already dismal living conditions.
Protests on Thursday broke out in the capital Havana, in the town of surgery, the capital Batabaño and the city of Cárdenas, and state security forces were deployed to quell the unrest. The government appears to have cut off internet and telecommunications networks across the country, possibly to prevent news of the protests from spreading and to inspire others to join.
While it’s not clear how many Cubans took to the streets – some footage shows around 100 protesters at one rally – the fact that the protest happened is remarkable. The Cuban government arrested more than 1,000 protesters last year after protests broke out across the country over shortages of food, electricity and dwindling medical services.
The government has held mass trials that have lasted for months, prosecuting 16-year-old minors for participating in the protests.
Whether the protests will continue into the weekend, but analysts note that Cubans appear to be venting their fear of confronting the government, which has no tolerance for those different opinions. While Thursday’s protests occurred in several communities around the country, on Friday night, small protests broke out in several Havana neighborhoods, and appeared to have been contained. regime in the capital.
On Thursday, several dozen protesters in several Havana neighborhoods blocked street traffic and smashed pots and pans – a common form of protest – chanting “we want light”. Many people expressed anger that the lack of electricity this week had ruined the meager food they had in the fridge.
“We close the street to the trash cans and we stay like that for three hours,” said Dairon, a Havana resident who protested. said on Thursday and asked to keep his last name out of concern for his safety. “We can’t take it anymore, our food is rotting.”
Other residents took to the streets with their dry molded grocery bags to show off their plight. One protester said the small crowd was dispersed after a few hours when security forces appeared, causing people to flee for fear of being detained.
“After the protests last July, the question is: is this an anomaly or a new phase, and now it seems to be a new phase and it will be difficult to bring the genie back. peace,” said Ted Henken, a professor at Baruch College, City University of New York, and the author of several books on Cuba.
“By suppressing or with some small fig leaves, it seems the government has stopped the protests,” he added. “But now, a year later, people are out again because the government has not been able to address the root causes of the protests. Frustration has spilled over into the general population because of the scarcity of food, electricity, basic things. That was only made worse by this terrible hurricane.”
Protests that took place in July 2021 saw thousands of protesters flock to cities and towns across Cuba, the largest anti-government demonstration the country has ever seen since since 1994.
Cubans have long complained of food shortages and have been forced to stand in long lines for hours asking for rations of milk, grain, or – even more rarely – government meat. becomes even worse. The meager food they receive is often not enough for their households, and many complain of going hungry.