Cuba blames U.S. for rare anti-government protests as Biden voices support for activists

2 weeks ago 9

Cuba blamed historical protests that took spot implicit the play connected U.S. “economic asphyxiation” and detained immoderate of the highest illustration activists, portion the Biden medication said it supported the Cuban people’s close to demonstrate.

The streets of Havana were quiescent connected Monday, though determination was a dense constabulary beingness and the capitol building, wherever much than a 1000 had congregated the time before, was cordoned off. Outages successful mobile net – the lone mode galore Cubans person of accessing the web – were frequent.

Thousands of Cubans joined thoroughfare protests from Havana to Santiago connected Sunday successful the biggest anti-government demonstrations connected the Communist-run land successful decades. They were protesting against the country’s dire economical situation and handling of the pandemic, but galore went further, calling for an extremity to communism and chanting “freedom.”

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At slightest 100 protesters, activists, and autarkic journalists had been detained nationwide since Sunday, according to exiled rights radical Cubalex – immoderate astatine the protests but others arsenic they tried to permission their homes.

“It’s becoming intolerable to unrecorded here,” said Havana nonmigratory Maykel, 21, who declined to springiness his surname for fearfulness of retaliation. “I don’t cognize if this tin hap again, due to the fact that astatine the moment, Havana is militarized.”

“Still, Cubans are losing their fear,” helium said.

Others Reuters spoke to said they hoped determination would beryllium nary much protests, citing fears of violence, and saying they would similar determination to beryllium much dialog.

The protests erupted amid some Cuba’s deepest economical situation since the autumn of erstwhile state the Soviet Union and a surge successful COVID-19 infections that has pushed immoderate hospitals to the borderline of illness successful a state that prides itself connected its healthcare system.

The tightening of decades-old U.S. sanctions nether erstwhile U.S. President Donald Trump and the pandemic person exacerbated shortages of nutrient and medicine, arsenic good arsenic powerfulness outages.

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A number of counter-revolutionaries were fomenting unrest, Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel said successful a much than four-hour-long televised code alongside his Cabinet. Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez blamed U.S.-financed mercenaries.

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In Washington, U.S. President Joe Biden said the United States stood with the radical of Cuba who were “bravely” asserting their close to peaceful protest, portion Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Cuban officials should not blasted the protests connected U.S. sanctions.

“It would beryllium a grievous mistake due to the fact that it would amusement that they simply are not proceeding the voices and volition of the Cuban people,” helium told a quality briefing.

Some Cuban celebrities who person to day not touched connected delicate governmental issues publically came retired successful enactment of the protesters.

“Their voices should beryllium heard and their rights to explicit themselves respected,” said singer-songwriter Cimafunk, whose existent sanction is Erik Rodriguez. “We request to unite and find the way guardant together, peacefully.”

In Miami, location to a ample assemblage of Cuban Americans, hundreds turned retired successful Little Havana connected Sunday to explicit solidarity and observe what they viewed arsenic the opening of the end. On Twitter, Miami politician Francis Suarez implored the United States to “take action.”

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Violence reported

Diaz-Canel denounced vandalism that took spot during the demonstrations.

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“They threw stones astatine overseas currency shops, they stole items… and astatine constabulary forces, they turned implicit cars – a wholly vulgar, indecent and delinquent behavior,” helium said.

But the president said pro-government supporters had yet restored order, aft connected Sunday instructing them to combat backmost and “defend the revolution” – orders that caused consternation among immoderate Cubans.

Reuters witnesses saw protesters successful Havana connected Sunday confronted by smaller pro-government counter-rallies, portion constabulary officers stopped their effort to march to Revolution Square.

Amnesty International said it had received with alarm reports of “internet blackouts, arbitrary arrests, excessive usage of unit – including constabulary firing connected demonstrators.” Reuters was incapable to independently verify the usage of firearms.

Network monitoring institution Kentik said it had observed the full state spell offline for little than 30 minutes astatine astir 4pm connected Sunday, followed by respective hours of intermittent outages.

“Until precise recently, ample net outages were precise rare,” said Doug Madory, Kentik’s manager of Internet analysis. “Internet shutdowns are caller to Cuba successful 2021.”

Internet blockage observatory NetBlocks said determination was partial disruption to societal media and messaging platforms successful Cuba connected Monday, “likely to bounds the travel of accusation from Cuba.”

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The United Nations said it was monitoring the protests and called for the rights of state of look and peaceful assembly to beryllium respected.

Jose Daniel, the person of Cuba’s largest absorption group, the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU), was arrested arsenic helium near location to articulation the protestation successful Santiago de Cuba successful the eastbound of the state connected Sunday. His whereabouts is unknown, UNPACU activistic Zaqueo Baez told Reuters.

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Luis Manuel Otero Alcantara and Amaury Pacheco, 2 members of a dissident artists’ corporate that has made headlines spearheading a broader protestation question successful Cuba successful caller years, were arrested connected their mode to protestation successful Havana, Pacheco’s spouse Iris Ruiz told Reuters. Otero Alcantara was successful jailhouse portion Pacheco’s whereabouts were unknown.

Another well-known dissident, Coco Farinas, was arrested arsenic helium near location connected Monday successful the cardinal municipality of Santa Clara, his parent Alicia Fernandez told Reuters.

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The Cuban authorities did not instantly remark connected the arrests. Cuba slams dissidents arsenic mercenaries successful the wage of the United States and allied with anti-Castro Cuban exiles.

“It feels similar a unsafe moment,” Ruiz said by phone, noting her vicinity had had nary mobile information each day. “I’m disquieted astir the benignant of reprisals they could instrumentality against activists – they person been progressively plying the mentation that we are terrorists lately.”

Julie Chung, Acting Assistant Secretary for the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs, called for the contiguous merchandise of them and others.

Diaz-Canel attacked what helium called Washington’s hypocrisy for expressing interest erstwhile it was fueling the situation successful Cuba with its commercialized embargo.

The United States tightened sanctions connected Cuba nether Trump, including restricting important remittances successful the mediate of the pandemic. Biden vowed during his run to easiness immoderate of these measures but has yet to bash so, with the White House saying it was not among his apical priorities.

“Is it not precise hypocritical and cynical that you artifact me… and you privation to contiguous yourself arsenic the large savior?” helium said.

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He said the authorities had been warring to support the system functioning “in the look of a argumentation of economical asphyxiation intended to provoke a societal uprising.”

(Reporting by Sarah Marsh, Marc Frank, Nelson Acosta and Reuters successful Havana; Additional reporting by Patricia Zengerle, Simon Lewis and Daphne Psaledakis successful Washington and Michelle Nichols astatine the United Nations; Editing by Howard Goller and Rosalba O’Brien)

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