Cuba: ‘I’m tired of being hungry’
“I took to the streets because I’m tired of being hungry,” said Sara Naranjo, in a video shared on Twitter.
Protests began in Cuba on Sunday, decrying the lack of medicine, food and fair living conditions under the Communist government.
For the first time in more than six decades, Cuban citizens have taken to the streets across the country calling for an end to the 62-year-old communist regime.
Why did it start?
Last year amidst the pandemic Cuba’s economy contracted by more than 11%. Its tourism dried up and there was a massive drop in remittances from Cubans living abroad—both of these were vital sources of income for families in Cuba.
With food shortages and high prices, Cuban citizens found it difficult to buy basic goods such as chicken or bread, or even to take a bus. If this was not enough, the island had to face week-long electricity outages without any aid from the government. This along with a surge in coronavirus infection and death triggered the long-suppressed Cubans to hit the streets.
How is this different from previous protests?
For the last 60 years, Cuba was under political repression, there was a lack of fundamental freedoms. It has been a country where protests have been virtually nonexistent. All protests were quickly suffocated. However this time, protesters appear unwilling to bow down instead they are prepared to stand up against the government.
Social media has been an essential factor in organizing the wave of protests. Relatively new to the island, it has empowered a young generation of Cuban activists who use it to spread their ideas and organize protests.
What’s happening on the ground?
Activists in Cuba said more than 100 people have been arrested or are missing following the protests, and at least one person has died. CNN reports multiple people were forcibly arrested and thrown into the back of vans at protests in Havana.
Dina Stars, a well-known Cuban YouTuber, was detained by government security on live television Tuesday as she was talking about the arrests of activists, journalists and protesters.
Stars, 25, was speaking when state security forces knocked on her door and demanded she go with them to a Havana police station.
“I hold the government responsible for anything that may happen to me,” she said before she abruptly left the interview.
As photos and videos of the protests began to circulate, authorities blocked social media sites to apparently stop the flow of information being shared online. On Monday, Cuban authorities were blocking Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram and Telegram.
In a televised address on Sunday, President Miguel Díaz-Canel blamed the protests on the U.S., which he said seeks to economically strangle Cuba and bring about a social explosion.
He said the protests were stirred up on social media by Cuban Americans in the United States. On national television, Diaz-Canel blamed U.S. trade sanctions for the communist-run island’s economic trouble.
US Response to Cuba
President Joe Biden called the protests “remarkable” and a “clarion call for freedom”.
“The Cuban people are demanding their freedom from an authoritarian regime. I don’t think we’ve seen anything like this protest in a long long time, if, quite frankly, ever,” Biden said Monday.
“We stand with the Cuban people and their clarion call for freedom and relief from the tragic grip of the pandemic and from the decades of repression and economic suffering to which they have been subjected by Cuba’s authoritarian regime,” Biden said in an earlier statement Monday. “The Cuban people are bravely asserting fundamental and universal rights.”
Is there a new Cuba in the making?
One may see it as a Cuban uprising where Cubans collectively took to the streets without fear of the draconian communist regime. Social media played a pivotal role in enabling this movement. However, what remains to be seen is how effective it will be in building things—like new democratic regimes—that require consensus, compromise, strong ties, hierarchy, and deep understanding, will Cubans live up to the requirements?
It’s important to note that the internet can play a facilitating role in an uprising. To liberate and rebuild Cuban society based on the rule of law, political equality, and the full exercise of civil liberties and political rights, the Cubans will need much more than just that.
Written By Prakriti S