Cubans around the world are expressing concern for loved ones back home as information about protests, arrests and police crackdown leaks from Cuba, and calls from international human rights groups for government actions stop growing louder.
At a press conference in Miami on Wednesday, Cuban-American musician Willy Chirino called for humanitarian intervention, saying “people are dying”.
Following the historic anti-government protests in Cuba on Sunday, solidarity protests took place in American cities such as Miami, Orlando, New York and Union City, New Jersey – all with sizeable Cuban American populations – as well as in countries such as Spain and Mexico, with people knocking on pots and chanting “Free Cuba”. The greatest concentration occurred in Miami, the heart of the Cuban community in exile, where protesters blocked the Palmetto Freeway, a major highway, for several hours on Tuesday.
In the Cuban capital, Havana, there was a heavy police presence in the streets and general calm on Wednesday according to NBC News staff who drove around the city.
Thousands of Cubans took to the streets on Sunday in protests unprecedented in decades. Protests are rare in Cuba, where the government tightly controls all aspects of life and dissent is not tolerated. The protests were largely sparked by the Caribbean island’s deep economic crisis which has left critical shortages of food and medicine, rising inflation, power outages amid the tropical summer heat and queues. waiting several hours to buy anything that people can find in stores. But the protests quickly turned into calls for “libertad” or freedom and an end to the communist-led system.
They also chanted “Patria y Vida” or “Homeland and Life”, the name of a song released earlier this year by Cuban artists living abroad that plays to the revolutionary socialist slogan “Homeland or Death” . The song has become a kind of hymn for those who demand freedom in Cuba.
Cuba’s economic crisis has been the worst in decades, in part due to the coronavirus pandemic, which has halted tourism – one of the main engines of its economy. The island nation was also subject to an economic embargo imposed by the United States in 1960.
In Havana, people started accessing the internet on Wednesday. The government had restricted access to social media and messaging platforms, including Facebook and WhatsApp, making it difficult to piece together what was happening across the island. News outside Havana, where most of the foreign journalists are based, is difficult to confirm.
Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch, tweeted on Wednesday that the sign of a “disconnected government” was to shut down social media so people could not talk to each other.
Videos of detentions appeared recently. Popular YouTuber, Dina Stars, has been arrested by authorities during a live interview with a Spanish TV news program. She was talking about the protests when she interrupted the interview and said security forces were knocking on her door. She tweeted on Wednesday afternoon that she was back home.
Well-known Cuban musicians such as the Los Van Van group and jazz pianist Chucho Valdés, who have good relations with the government, have expressed their support for the protesters in Facebook posts. Celebrities in the United States, including Puerto Rican singers Marc Anthony, Ricky Martin and Residente, also offered their support to those protesting, using the #SOSCuba hashtag which is trending on social media.
“It’s very important,” Martin wrote on Instagram. “Our brothers and sisters in Cuba need us to tell the world what they are going through there,” he said in Spanish.
Cuban authorities confirmed on Tuesday that a 36-year-old man died during protests on the outskirts of Havana on Monday and others were injured, including police officers.
Amnesty International has condemned the detention of more than 100 Cubans, including several journalists.
Erika Guevara-Rosas, Amnesty International’s Director for the Americas, tweeted an edited version of a video that circulated on social media showing security forces breaking into a house and apparently shooting a man. There are children crying in the background and you can hear a woman cry and say “my children. Why did you do this? There is nothing in my house. Look what you did to my husband, ”as the camera shows blood spattered on the floor. She then says that they shot her husband and took him away. The video has been verified by NBC News.
“These images of violent arbitrary detentions are repeated in various regions of the country,” tweeted Guevara-Rosas.
The European Parliament issued a statement on Wednesday calling on the Vice President of the European Commission to call on the Cuban authorities to release a detained journalist working for the Spanish newspaper ABC, to cease all violence against peaceful protesters and to allow parliamentarians to enter unrestricted in Cuba.
In a video, State Department spokesman Ned Price called on the Cuban government to release those detained. “We congratulate the Cuban people for showing great bravery, the strength of their will and the power of their voice,” he said. “We remain deeply concerned about the Cuban government’s ‘call to fight’ and the images of violence we have seen in recent days.
The Cuban government said Sunday’s protests were funded by the United States and that Cuban-Americans were the source of the unrest on social media. He also blamed the decades-long US embargo and pandemic for the severe economic crisis facing the island.
Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez said on Tuesday that “on July 11 there were riots, there were unrest on a very limited scale, opportunistically taking advantage of the difficult conditions we live in today , we Cubans “. He said experts had found evidence that outsiders were using sophisticated equipment to widely spread fear-mongering and inciting messages on social media.
Meanwhile, Cuba is grappling with an increase in Covid-19 cases and deaths. The Ministry of Public Health on Wednesday reported a record 51 deaths and 6,080 new cases among the population of just over 11 million.
Some protesters had expressed frustration at the government’s handling of the pandemic by allowing tourists to visit the island while limiting flights from the United States, where many Cubans have relatives waiting to visit and visit. take food and medicine. The restrictions also make it difficult for “mulas” or couriers who carry goods between the United States and Cuba to make trips.
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