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Anti-Government Protests Erupt Throughout Cuba, Demanding Freedom

(Photo by YAMIL LAGE/AFP via Getty Images)

Nicole Silverio Contributor
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Thousands of protesters marched the streets throughout Cuba Sunday retaliating against the country’s communist regime.

The Cuban Communist Party elected Miguel Diaz-Canel to replace Raul Castro as president during its April 19, 2018 election, Reuters reported.

Cubans in over 32 cities protested in retaliation to the communist regime chanting “Freedom! “Down with Communism!” and “Patria y Vida” (Homeland and Life) in a live Facebook video. The demonstrators demanded access to food, medicine, vaccines and the end to communism amid a massive COVID-19 outbreak.

Activist Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara urged Cuban citizens to gather on the Malecón boardwalk in Havana to “fight for democracy,” The Miami Herald reported. Footage showed a group of protesters marching in the Malecón waved the American flag while chanting “Libertad!” (Liberty).

A crowd of protesters gathered outside of the Communist Party headquarters chanting, “Cuba isn’t yours!” (Here’s What Life Is Like Living In Communist Cuba)

In another location, demonstrators can be heard chanting “No tenemos miedo,” which translates to “We are not afraid.”

Santiago de Cuba police joined the mass protests, marching alongside the demonstrators, footage showed.

The call for democracy reflects the nation’s ongoing struggle with COVID-19 and vaccine shortages, holding a new daily record of 6,923 cases of COVID-19 Sunday and a total of 1,537 overall deaths from the virus, France 24 reported. The country, under U.S. sanctions, has suffered from food lines and a lack of medicines and vaccines.

The province of Matanzas witnessed a crisis after its socialist health system collapsed, causing citizens’ to demand humanitarian aid from foreign countries, according to The Miami Herald. In response, the federal government sent more doctors and opened a bank under U.S. sanctions. However, the government has historically denied humanitarian aid.

The town San Antonio de los Banos witnessed a new record of cases Sunday, sparking its widespread protests. Protesters angrily shouted at the president, who arrived at the protest in San Antonio de los Banos.

Julie Chung, acting assisting secretary for the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Western Affairs, claimed the protests are a response to COVID-19 cases and deaths despite protesters’ demands for democracy and freedom. Although, the picture was in fact much more expansive than concerns over COVID-19.

Cuban citizens accused the Communist Party of cutting their internet access and preventing them from leaving their homes during the Cuban Communist Party Congress’ four-day session in April, Reuters reported. Castro, who stepped down as leader of the Communist Party, warned that the “counterrevolutionaries,” those opposing the party’s policies, had strong support.

Castro’s warning resulted in pro-government groups harassing those in opposition to the Communist Party, according to Reuters.

Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel blamed the protests on the U.S. He claimed the U.S. purposely limited Cuba’s access to essential goods to “provoke a social uprising” in order to justify military intervention, The Miami Herald reported. He threatened retaliation against the protesters’ efforts.

“We are not going to hand over the sovereignty or the independence of people. There are many revolutionaries in this country who are willing to give our lives, we are willing to do anything, and we will be in the streets fighting,” Diaz-Canel said Sunday, according to the Miami Herald.

The president claimed the protesters are a “counterrevolutionary, mercenary” group paid by the U.S. government to organize the demonstrations.

Authorities of the Cuban government, whom Republican Florida Sen. Marco Rubio referred to as “Communist repression squads,” climbed into a line of trucks in preparation to intervene against the mass demonstrations, footage showed.

Hundreds of people in the Little Havana neighborhood of Miami protested on behalf of the Cubans and held a moment of silence for an unidentified protester that had reportedly been killed, NBC Miami reported. Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis announced his support for the Cuban people and their fight to end the “tyrannical regime.”

“Florida supports the people of Cuba as they take to the streets against the tyrannical regime in Havana. The Cuban dictatorship has repressed the people of Cuba for decades & is now trying to silence those who have the courage to speak out against its disastrous policies. #SOSCuba,” DeSantis tweeted Sunday.

Former President Barack Obama worked to enhance the newly restored relationship between the U.S. and Cuba in 2016 by easing the embargo placed against the island, VOA News reported. Obama worked to restore relations by easing restrictions on Cuba in order to create economic opportunities between the U.S. and the island, promoted medical research and expanded scientific, humanitarian and trade opportunities.

Independent Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders has currently remained silent regarding the protests, according to Fox News. Sanders told CNN anchor Anderson Cooper in a prior “60 Minutes” interview that the Cubans did not overthrow the Castro regime because of its healthcare and education policies. He went so far as to praise Castro’s literacy program.

“We’re very opposed to the authoritarian nature of Cuba, but, you know, it’s unfair to say that everything is bad. You know? When Fidel Castro came into office, you know what he did? He had a massive literacy program,” Sanders said. “Is that a bad thing? Even though Fidel Castro did it?”

The Vermont senator received backlash from Florida Democrats for complimenting Castro’s policies. Democratic Florida State Rep. Javier Fernandez said it would be difficult for Democrats in the state to win if Sanders was the nominee, Politico reported.