Cuban protesters filled the streets of the island nation over the weekend to reject what they call a “lack of freedom” as well as a lack of food and medicine exacerbated by both the coronavirus and US meddling through the use of sanctions.
Mr Diaz-Canel pointed to the US as the culprit behind the nation’s commodity scarcity. Since 2000, US sanctions placed on Cuba – which the government claims has cost the country hundreds of billions of dollars over the decades – has allowed for food and humanitarian relief goods to pass through the embargo.
The White House responded to Mr Diaz-Canel’s accusation that the US was fomenting the unrest. “That’s simply inaccurate,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said on Monday at her daily briefing, adding, “there’s every indication that yesterday’s protests were reactions of the people in Cuba to exhaustion of the governance of the leaders of the state”.
Like much of the rest of the world, Cuba has struggled to provide for its citizens as mounting coronavirus infections leave hospitals overwhelmed and supplies dwindling.
Cuba’s president has called for his “revolutionaries” to take to the street alongside the nation’s military to push back against the protesters. In a televised address, he said the “order to combat has been given.”
In Miami, where many Cubans who opposed Fidel Castro’s regime fled after the Cuban Revolution, opponents of the revolutionary leaders have started marching in solidarity with protesters still on the island. Some Republican lawmakers, including Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and Texas Senator Ted Cruz, have praised the protests despite regularly villainizing protesters in their own states and nation.