After a dramatic day of protests across Cuba on Sunday 11 June, many led by artists and cultural figures, US president Joe Biden today spoke in support for the Cuban people who are “demanding their freedom from an authoritarian regime”, and called on the Cuban government to refrain from violence against the its citizens as they “assert their universal rights”. Biden echoed a sentiment shared by many people both on and off the island, saying: “I don’t think we’ve seen anything like this in a long, long time.”
Biden issued a statement to voice solidarity with “the Cuban people and their clarion call for freedom,” and the White House warned authorities not to use force after thousands poured onto the streets Sunday amid the worst economic crisis in decades. The sweeping movement comes following years of steady economic decline, food shortages, lack of heath care and a government that continues to clamp down on those who speak out against it. Protests were held across the country, after the first rallies began just outside Havana in the town of St Antonio de los Banos. The protesters shouted “Libertad” – freedom – and “Patria y Vida”, fatherland and life, a play on revolutionary slogan Patria o Muerte, which states the revolutionaries’ willingness to die for one’s homeland. “We are not afraid,” they also chanted. Videos and news of the protests spread via social media, sparking further demonstrations across the 1,250km country.
Cuba’s problems have been slowly growing over many years as a lack of investment and increasing obsolescence has taken its toll – but the pandemic has exacerbated the problems. Last year, tourism fell away to nothing and the economy contracted by 11 percent, a figure which is believed to be far worse by now.