Anti-government protests broke out in Cuba this week over lack of access to food and basic medical supplies amid a surge in COVID cases.
The country has suffered from massive inflation and prolonged power outages as a result of longstanding US sanctions that restrict access to basic goods and finance, along with corruption and mismanagement of the country. government for decades, made worse by the drop in tourism during the pandemic.
The protests began on Sunday and have spread rapidly across the country as thousands of Cubans despair of hunger and lack of basic supplies. One protester shouted in a video posted to Facebook: “Our children are dying of hunger. Other videos on Twitter seems to show protesters calling for “system change.”
The protests were the largest in recent memory and government forces, often quick to suppress demonstrations, initially struggled to retain control. Some musicians, who along with artists face persecution for speaking out, also released statements in support of the protesters.
Continuous network outages and harassment and detention of journalists have made it difficult to verify facts on the ground; however, photos and videos have emerged showing both uniformed and plainclothes police beating protesters with batons and appear to shoot at them. At least one person has been killed, and Amnesty International says at least 150 others have been reported missing and may have been detained.
While the government appears to have softened its stance somewhat, lifting tariffs on goods imported to the island, that may not be enough to quell the protests. “No, we don’t want debris. We want freedom. The blood has not yet flowed on the streets of Cuba so that a few more suitcases can be imported.” tweeted blogger and government critic Yoaní Sánchez.