Cuban authorities are deploying security forces in large numbers across the country following the largest protests seen in decades in the country, multiple outlets reported on Monday evening.
Police patrols were increased in the capital city of Havana and were joined by counterintelligence officers and Communist Party militants, local activists told the Wall Street Journal. Those activists said at least 100 people have been arrested in protests in Havana and elsewhere. One prominent dissident was detained while trying to attend a protest in Santiago, more than 550 miles from the capital, according to the Associated Press.
The government denied that protests continued on Monday, however authorities placed the country under an Internet blackout, blocking potential uploads of video footage from demonstrations.
“How ruthless will the regime crack down? . . . They will be very ruthless,” Brian Latell, a former Cuba analyst at the CIA, told the Journal. A “notable” feature of the protests is “the lack of fear,” Latell added. “Cubans were marching in all those places, young and old, black and white.”
The current protests began Sunday amid widespread economic hardship brought on by the coronavirus pandemic. The protests are the largest since the Maleconazo uprising in 1994, after which thousands of Cubans left for Florida by sea.
Additionally, the protests come after the April retirement of Raul Castro, former head of Cuba’s Communist Party and brother of dictator Fidel Castro. Raul Castro’s successor, Miguel Díaz-Canel, blamed the uprising on U.S. economic sanctions.
Díaz-Canel also alleged that American mercenaries were behind the protests, and he called on “the revolutionaries of the country, all the Communists, to go out in the streets where these provocations will occur . . . to face them in a decisive, firm, and courageous way.”
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Monday evening that blaming the U.S. for the protests was a “grievous mistake.”
“It would be a grievous mistake for the Cuban regime to interpret what is happening in dozens of towns and cities [across Cuba] as a result or product of anything the United States has done,” Blinken said in a statement.