Thousands of Cubans have joined the most important protests for many years against the island’s Communist government.
They marched in cities including the capital Havana, shouting, “Down with the dictatorship!”.
In response, police used aerosol and beat a number of the demonstrators.
Cubans are angered by the collapse of the economy, also as by restrictions on civil liberties and therefore the authorities’ handling of the pandemic, with record infections in recent days.
The protesters were demanding a faster coronavirus vaccination program
Last year, Cuba’s state-controlled economy shrank by 11%, its worst decline in almost three decades, hit hard by the pandemic and US sanctions imposed by the Trump administration.
Thousands of pro-government supporters also took to the streets after the president went on television to urge them to defend the revolution – pertaining to the 1959 uprising which ushered in decades of Communist rule.
President Miguel Díaz-Canel said the protests were a provocation by mercenaries hired by the US to destabilize the country and promised a “revolutionary response”.
The top US diplomat for Latin America, Julie Chung, tweeted: “We are deeply concerned by ‘calls to combat’ in Cuba.”
“We stand by the Cuban people’s right for peaceful assembly. We involve calm and condemn any violence.”
‘There is not any freedom’
The anti-government protests began with an indication within the city of San Antonio de Los Baños, southwest of Havana, but soon spread throughout the country.
Many of them were broadcast survive social networks, which showed marchers shouting slogans against the govt and therefore the president, and calling for change.
“This is that the day: we will not take it anymore. there’s no food, there’s no medicine, there’s no freedom. they are doing not allow us to live. We are already tired,” one among the protesters, who gave his name only as Alejandro, told the BBC.
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Images posted on social media showed what appear to be security forces detaining and beating a number of the protesters.
Other posts showed people overturning police cars and looting some state-owned shops which price their goods in foreign currencies. for several Cubans, these shops are the sole way they will buy basic necessities but prices are high.
Protesters also voiced their anger over a shortage of vaccines, because the country reported a record of nearly 7,000 daily infections and 47 deaths on Sunday.
More than 1,500 Covid-related deaths are reported since the beginning of the outbreak.
Some of the demonstrators sang Patria y Vida (“Fatherland and Life”), a rap and reggaeton hit. Its title plays on a slogan dating back to the 1950s when the late Fidel Castro’s revolutionaries overthrew the govt.