Protesters rallying against Cuba’s government on July 11 expressed a number of grievances, including the state of the country’s economy and the response to the coronavirus pandemic.
“What we want is change,” Yamila Monte, a Cuban domestic worker told AFP. “I have had enough.”
The protests were the largest against the government in decades and took place in the capital, Havana, as well as multiple areas across the country.
People “are angry because there is no food, because there are problems,” Yudeiky Valverde, a 39-year-old primary school employee told AFP.
Cuba is in the midst of severe economic woes. The government reported the economy shrank by 11 percent last year. A drop in tourism after the Trump administration imposed new travel restrictions and the ongoing coronavirus pandemic have added to the strain of the continued U.S. trade embargo and sanctions targeting shipments of oil from Venezuela.
With a sharp spike in COVID-19 cases this year, protesters are upset about the medical system.
“There have been demonstrations because of the drugs, because there are none, there is nothing in the country,” Niurka Rodriguez, a 57-year-old rumba singer told AFP, while acknowledging the impact of the U.S. embargo.
Cuba’s President Miguel Díaz-Canel blamed the U.S. policies for the unrest, an accusation denied by U.S. officials. U.S. President Joe Biden said the protesters “are demanding their freedom from an authoritarian regime.”
A protester who spoke to the Associated Press but declined to identify himself out of fear of possible arrest said: “We are fed up with the queues, the shortages. That’s why I’m here.”
Maykel, a Havana resident who spoke to Reuters and declined to give his surname, described the situation in Cuba by saying, “It’s becoming impossible to live here.”