On July 11th, thousands of Cubans began to peacefully protest against the lack of food and proper access to medicine. The country continues to undergo an economic crisis as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and US sanctions. According to Cubalex, after Sunday’s police presence continued, at least 80 protesters, activists, and independent journalists have been detained nationwide. The police used tear gas to disperse crowds of protesters, and CNN reporters stated that they witnessed demonstrators being forcibly arrested and piled into the backs of vans by police officers. President Miguel Diaz-Canel, in response to the protesters’ calls for his resignation, blamed the protests and the economic instability on the US’s “economic asphyxiation” of Cuba and US financing of counter-revolutionary groups.
The tightening of decades-old US sanctions under former US President Donald Trump exacerbated shortages and power outages in Cuba, allowing Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez to blame the United States for the sudden rise in unrest across Cuba. The Cuban government also cited the launch of the online campaign #SOSCuba, which calls for humanitarian assistance, as a disguised attempt to sow unrest and incite violent protests. On a televised broadcast, the president instructed pro-government supporters to restore order by encouraging them to fight back and “defend the revolution.” Network monitoring company Kentik and internet monitor Netblocks reported the entire country going offline, having internet access suspended for just under half an hour on Sunday. This was followed by several hours of intermittent outages. Netblocks reported online that “Social media and messaging platforms restricted in #Cuba from Monday on state-run internet provider ETECSA; real-time network data corroborate reports of internet disruptions amid widening anti-government protests.” However, videos that Cubans uploaded, depicting the spontaneous protest movement and peaceful demonstrations, gained momentum.
Global pressure to respond to protests and prompt political change results from proper, informative media coverage. The Cuban government’s attempt to suppress their citizens’ ability to record, communicate, inform, and collaborate shows a desire to suppress demonstrations. In response, the United Nations called for the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly to be rested and retained, stating that it was monitoring the protests for human rights violations. President of the United States, Joe Biden, promised to ease sanctions during his White House campaign but has yet to do so. President of Mexico, Andres Manuel Lopez condemned the US, stating that the economic ban on trade or commercial activity with the United States should end. He said, “The truth is that if one wanted to help Cuba, the first thing that should be done is to suspend the blockade of Cuba as the majority of countries in the world are asking.”
Action needs to be taken to ameliorate the economic constraints placed on Cuba and its citizens. This involves President Biden easing the US sanctions on Cuba. Meanwhile, international organizations and countries worldwide should place pressure on the Cuban government to allow citizens the right to peacefully demonstrate, protest, and have access to online resources that bridge them with the rest of the world.