HAVANA (KRON) — Cuba saw its largest protests in recent memory after thousands of protesters took to the streets as a cry for help. What’s happening now?
Protests erupted on the island due to food shortages and high prices amid the coronavirus pandemic. Cubans facing the country’s worst economic crisis in decades rallied over the weekend, which has now gained worldwide attention.
In San Antonio de los Banos, a city located west of Havana with a population of about 46,000, hundreds rallied on Sunday, expressing their frustrations after nearly a week of electricity cuts during the uncomfortable heat.
Activists in Cuba said more than 100 people have been arrested or are missing following the protests, and at least one person has died. CNN reports multiple people were forcibly arrested and thrown into the back of vans at protests in Havana.
Dina Stars, a well-known Cuban YouTuber, was detained by government security on live television Tuesday as she was talking about the arrests of activists, journalists and protesters.
Stars, 25, was speaking when state security forces knocked on her door and demanded she go with them to a Havana police station.
“I hold the government responsible for anything that may happen to me,” she said before she abruptly left the interview.
As photos and videos of the protests began to circulate, authorities blocked social media sites to apparently stop the flow of information being shared online. On Monday, Cuban authorities were blocking Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram and Telegram.
Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel said the protests were stirred up on social media by Cuban Americans in the United States. On national television, Diaz-Canel blamed U.S. trade sanctions for the communist-run island’s economic trouble.
For more than 60 years, Cuba has remained under the economic blockade of the United States government. Cuba’s government blames the economic crisis squarely on the decades-old U.S. trade embargo on Cuba, which was tightened by the Trump administration, along with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
President Joe Biden called the protests “remarkable” and a “clarion call for freedom”.
“The Cuban people are demanding their freedom from an authoritarian regime. I don’t think we’ve seen anything like this protest in a long long time, if, quite frankly, ever,” Biden said Monday.
“We stand with the Cuban people and their clarion call for freedom and relief from the tragic grip of the pandemic and from the decades of repression and economic suffering to which they have been subjected by Cuba’s authoritarian regime,” Biden said in an earlier statement Monday. “The Cuban people are bravely asserting fundamental and universal rights.”
White House Press Secretary added that the U.S. remains ready to help Cuba in its COVID-19 vaccination effort, but the Cuban government’s decision to not participate in COVAX — a worldwide initiative aimed at distributing vaccines to poorer nations — complicated the effort.
Demonstrators across the U.S. are now partaking in protests of their own to show support for Cuba.
A large group gathered at a busy Miami intersection on Tuesday chanting support for Cubans. A few miles away, hundreds of supporters gathered for hours Tuesday evening at park where the peaceful crowd waved flags and cheered on the efforts of the protesters.
Locally, events are planned around the Bay Area to demand the end of the U.S. blockade against Cuba.
A San Francisco caravan is planned on Sunday, July 25 from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. The caravan is gathering at 1875 Marin Street in san Francisco.
Similarly that same day, Cuban-Americans and supporters are traveling 1,300 miles from Miami to Washington D.C. to rally in front of the White House to deliver demands and a petition signed by more than 25,000 people to the Biden Administration.
Solidarity caravans and similar events will take place across many U.S. cities to support the effort.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.