Thousands of Cubans marched on Havana’s Malecon promenade and elsewhere on the island Sunday to protest food shortages and high prices amid the coronavirus crisis. This was one of biggest anti-government demonstrations in memory. Protesters chanted “Freedom,” “Enough” and “Unite.” Also they said “We are not afraid!” and “Down with the dictatorship.” Protests erupted in several cities, including the island’s biggest — Havana, Santiago, Santa Clara, Matanzas, Cienfuegos and Holguín — but also in smaller towns like Palma Soriano, Cárdenas, Colón, Guira de Melena, Artemisa and others. Crowds overturned police cars. Cuban authorities eventually shut down internet service within the area.
Cuba is going through its worst economic crisis in decades. Trump-era sanctions have reduced access to vital economic lifelines. Julie Chung, an official in the Biden administration tweeted support for Sunday’s demonstrations. “Peaceful protests are growing in #Cuba as the Cuban people exercise their right to peaceful assembly to express concern about rising COVID cases/deaths & medicine shortages. We commend the numerous efforts of the Cuban people mobilizing donations to help neighbors in need.” Various politicians on both sides of the aisle have spoken out in favor of the Cuban demonstrators. The Cuban leader warned that protesters would face a strong response and called “all revolutionaries” to confront them on the streets “with firmness and courage.”