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Cuba’s president blames Washington for protests, says US sanctions responsible for shortages and ‘social unrest’

Speaking on Monday, President Miguel Díaz-Canel blasted what he described as US interference in fiery remarks, condemning protests which erupted on the island a day earlier. Appearing alongside his cabinet in a televised national address, he stated that the people of Cuba have the right to defend their system and uphold the achievements of the revolution.

Responding to criticism over the country’s current economic woes, which have been worsened by the pandemic, Díaz-Canel said that Washington’s continuing sanctions against Cuba were causing the shortages, including a lack of medicines and power outages. Washington has pursued, he said, “a policy of economic suffocation to provoke social unrest in the country”.

He also claimed there had been a clear and obvious campaign in recent weeks which aimed to provoke the people and undermine the achievements of the government. Díaz-Canel stated that there had been attempts to discredit the nation’s handling of the pandemic in an effort to fracture national unity.

The president said that the country was still faring well against Covid-19 despite a shortage of medicines.

On Sunday, thousands of people took to the streets in Havana, Santiago de Cuba and other cities, demanding urgent action on food, medicine and vaccine shortages. Many chanted slogans such as “We are not afraid,” “Liberty,” and “Cuba is not yours!” while demanding an end to the island nation’s communist rule. In some places, demonstrations became more violent, with cars flipped and rocks thrown at police.

Also speaking on Monday, US President Joe Biden gave his backing to the protest movement, saying that Cubans’ “right of peaceful protest and the right to freely determine their own future must be respected”. He said the Cuban government must hear the call of its people and “serve their needs at this vital moment rather than enriching themselves.”

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