Cubans stage rare protests over Covid measures
Thousands of people have protested against Cuba’s communist government in the capital Havana and several other cities, in the biggest demonstrations on the island in almost 30 years.
Marchers were seen calling for freedom, democracy and demanding vaccines to tackle the coronavirus pandemic.
The demonstrations, which are rare in Cuba, come as the country reports a record number of Covid infections.
Supporters of the government also rallied in Havana.
“We call on all revolutionaries of the country, all communists, to go out in the streets where these provocations occur… and to face them in a decisive, firm and courageous way”, Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel said, blaming the US for the unrest.
In response, Julie Chung, the top US diplomat for Latin America, tweeted: “We are deeply concerned by ‘calls to combat’ in Cuba.”
“We stand by the Cuban people’s right for peaceful assembly. We call for calm and condemn any violence.”
Armed security forces were deployed, and there were reports of scuffles and arrests in the capital.
In San Antonio de los Baños, 30km (20 miles) south of Havana, one protester told the AFP news agency people were angry about “the situation with electricity and food”.
“The energy situation seems to have produced some reaction here,” admitted President Diaz-Canel, blaming “a Cuban-American mafia” for stirring up discontent.
Protesters also voiced their anger over a shortage of vaccines, as the country reported a record of nearly 7,000 daily infections and 47 deaths on Sunday.
More than 1,500 Covid-related deaths have been reported since the start of the outbreak.
On Friday, Cuba approved its home-grown vaccine for emergency use, Abdala Two, a first for Latin America and the Caribbean.