Cuba’s authorities rallies supporters after main protests – WISH-TV | Indianapolis Information | Indiana climate
HAVANA (AP) – Cuban officials gathered tens of thousands of supporters on the streets on Saturday – almost a week after they were stunned by the most widespread protests for decades.
President Miguel Díaz-Canel – accompanied by 90-year-old former President Raul Castro – appeared on the Malecon promenade, where some of the biggest protests against scarcity and the political system had taken place last weekend.
He delivered a passionate speech accusing the unrest on the US and its economic embargo, “blockade, aggression and terror” while waving a crowd of Cuban flags and those of the July 26th Movement led by Fidel Castro during the Cuban Revolution .
“The enemy has returned to do everything possible to destroy the sacred unity and tranquility of the citizens,” he said.
It ended without the traditional call “Home or Death!” – a slogan that was ridiculed last week by demonstrators who shouted: “Home and Life!”
Havana has returned to normal in the past few days, even if the mobile internet data service – which the authorities cut on Sunday – remained restricted.
“There is political and social erosion … there is a lot of disgust, we need to talk more, do more and things that have been done wrong should be corrected,” Abel Alba, a 50-year-old civil engineer, said Friday. “The president tried to smooth things over a bit,” but he waited “too long” to listen to the demands of the people on the street.
The protests began on Sunday as thousands of Cubans marched along the Malecon and elsewhere to protest food and medicine shortages, power outages and some even for political change. Smaller protests continued on Monday and Tuesday.
Díaz-Canel initially responded by pointing out US economic sanctions, the effects of the coronavirus pandemic and a social media campaign by Cuban-American groups. However, he later recognized some responsibility on the part of Cuban leaders.
With this in mind, Cuban cabinet ministers announced a mix of measures, including permits for travelers to import unlimited food and medicine, and the ability for people to use their ration books to source subsidized goods outside of their hometowns.
“The Cuban government has just shown that it could have allowed the import of food and medicines without quantitative limits or tariffs, but has decided not to do so for more than a year of the pandemic,” wrote José Jasan Nieves, director of the independent digital newspaper, El Toque. “People twisted their arms.”
The authorities reiterated their intention to end the approval of small and medium-sized enterprises as a source of employment and a program for state-owned enterprises to pay more than the current salary bracket.
What the officials also made clear is that they are unwilling to change the island’s political model.
Street vendor Marlén Rodríguez, 66, was not optimistic after the government’s announcements. “There are no drugs, there is nothing, there is no food.”
According to Díaz-Canel, four sectors were involved in the protests: radical supporters of the United States who waved the flag of that country during the protests and demanded intervention from Washington, criminals who took advantage of the situation to loot, people who due to the impact of the crisis on their daily lives and young people feeling disenfranchised.
The marches turned violent, with police clashing with protesters, wrecking patrol cars, looting shops, breaking windows, throwing stones, and making violent arrests and injuries.
“When people with faint minds let themselves be influenced, things like what happened on Sunday happen,” said Talia Linares, a 19-year-old student who ran for the rally on Saturday. “So we’re here to show that this isn’t Cuban youth.”
One government opponent died during the protests, the exact number of those arrested is not known. Government opponents said the number was over 100 on social media.
On Friday, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, called for the protesters to be released.
The measures announced by the government are “positive measures, but they are not enough,” said Cuban economist Omar Everleny Pérez.
“Without influencing ideology, there is a lot of room for maneuver for the state,” he said, mentioning allowing private entrepreneurs to import goods without the state monopoly, allowing foreign companies to set up retail markets or raising the ceiling on agricultural prices in order to to increase the supply.
However, political analysts said the economic challenges are great.
“I think the government is just trying to signal to people that they understand their desperation and will try to alleviate the misery they are experiencing. The problem is, the government just doesn’t have a lot of resources to devote to it, ”said William LeoGrande, Cuba expert at American University in the United States.
LeoGrande said the unrest in Cuba and the assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moïse had put the Caribbean back on US President Joe Biden’s agenda.
“There is no question that the demonstrations in Cuba and the assassination of the Haitian President and the ensuing unrest put the Caribbean at the top of President Biden’s foreign policy agenda, although they would have preferred to put it on hold for some time much longer, ”he said. “What the government will do about Cuba is still very much up in the air.”