, First Cuban demonstrator killed after police ‘open fire on peaceful protest’ while reporter arrested, Nzuchi Times

First Cuban demonstrator killed after police ‘open fire on peaceful protest’ while reporter arrested

The first Cuban protester has died after police allegedly opened fire on a peaceful demonstration while an anti-government reporter was arrested live on TV as the unrest continues on the Communist-run island. 

Diubis Laurencio Tejeda, 36, died on Monday in a suburb of Havana during a clash between protesters and police, the Interior Ministry said. 

The ministry said Tejeda was part of a group of protesters that had attacked a government facility in the La Guinera neighbourhood of Havana and did not say what caused his death. 

But witnesses said security forces had responded with gunfire after some demonstrators had thrown rocks at them.

‘I think the Communists have lost control, they won’t have a solution to this situation,’ said resident Waldo Herrara, 49. ‘The people are tired of so much humiliation, so much repression.’    

Meanwhile, social media activist Dina Stars was reportedly arrested live on television by Cuban security forces while speaking with Spain TV host Marta Flich on Tuesday about the protests. 

Thousands of Cubans took to the streets of Cuba on Sunday while chanting ‘down with the dictatorship’ in the biggest anti-government demonstrations on the Communist-run island in decades. 

Cubans are protesting over high prices and food shortages and other grievances against the government such as their handling of the pandemic.

The protests, rare in a country where public dissent is tightly controlled had largely ended by Sunday evening, as security forces were deployed to the streets and President Miguel Diaz-Canel called on government supporters to go out and fight to defend their revolution.      

But another protest flared late Monday in the southern Havana suburb of La Guinera, where Tejeda died and several others, including members of the security forces, were hospitalized with injuries, according to state-run media on Tuesday.

, First Cuban demonstrator killed after police ‘open fire on peaceful protest’ while reporter arrested, Nzuchi Times

, First Cuban demonstrator killed after police ‘open fire on peaceful protest’ while reporter arrested, Nzuchi Times

Thousands of Cubans took to the streets from Havana to Santiago on Sunday chanting ‘down with the dictatorship’ in the biggest anti-government demonstrations on the Communist-run island in decades

, First Cuban demonstrator killed after police ‘open fire on peaceful protest’ while reporter arrested, Nzuchi Times

, First Cuban demonstrator killed after police ‘open fire on peaceful protest’ while reporter arrested, Nzuchi Times

A man is arrested during a demonstration against the government of Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel in Havana on Sunday

, First Cuban demonstrator killed after police ‘open fire on peaceful protest’ while reporter arrested, Nzuchi Times

, First Cuban demonstrator killed after police ‘open fire on peaceful protest’ while reporter arrested, Nzuchi Times

Riot police who were clad in black body armour and helmets while carrying batons and shields were seen arresting dozens of demonstrators who had gone out to protest again on Monday

, First Cuban demonstrator killed after police ‘open fire on peaceful protest’ while reporter arrested, Nzuchi Times

, First Cuban demonstrator killed after police ‘open fire on peaceful protest’ while reporter arrested, Nzuchi Times

Riot police walk the streets of Havana on Monday as protesters carry wooden bats 

, First Cuban demonstrator killed after police ‘open fire on peaceful protest’ while reporter arrested, Nzuchi Times

, First Cuban demonstrator killed after police ‘open fire on peaceful protest’ while reporter arrested, Nzuchi Times

Social media activist Dina Stars was reportedly arrested live on television by Cuban security forces while speaking with Spanish TV host Marta Flich on Tuesday about the protests

It did not say what was the cause the death. No other deaths and injuries have been officially confirmed so far.

Hundreds had taken to streets in La Guinera, shouting slogans like ‘down with communism,’ and ‘freedom for the people of Cuba,’ according to two residents and video footage seen by Reuters. 

Some started throwing rocks at security forces who eventually responded with gunfire, said Herrera. 

A witness saw dozens of people carrying sticks departing La Guinera late Monday.

Activists say the government is using so-called rapid-reaction brigades – government-organized bands of civilian recruits – to counter protesters.

The protest in La Guinera was spearheaded by ‘antisocial and criminal elements’ that had tried to reach the police station with the aim of attacking its officials and damaging infrastructure, said the state-run Cuban News Agency.

When security forces stopped them, they vandalized homes, set containers on fire, and damaged the suburb’s electricity wiring, attacking officials with stones and other objects, the agency said. 

On Tuesday, Stars – who has been vocal in her criticism of the government – was arrested while speaking about the protests from her home in Cuba.

During the interview, her friend is seen telling her that the police were waiting outside her home and forced her to end the interview. 

‘Security is out there… I have to go out,’ Stars told host Marta Flich. 

As Stars stands up, she said: ‘I make the government responsible for whatever happens to me.’

Stars returns moments later to the video interview to tell Flich that she is being taken by the police officers to the station. She was unsure whether she was being arrested but said she was being taken alone without her friends. 

‘They’re taking me to {police HQ]. Live via Spain, I will hold the government responsible for whatever happens to me,’ she informed viewers.

, First Cuban demonstrator killed after police ‘open fire on peaceful protest’ while reporter arrested, Nzuchi Times

, First Cuban demonstrator killed after police ‘open fire on peaceful protest’ while reporter arrested, Nzuchi Times

‘They’re taking me to [police HQ]. Live via Spain, I will hold the government responsible for whatever happens to me,’ she informed viewers

, First Cuban demonstrator killed after police ‘open fire on peaceful protest’ while reporter arrested, Nzuchi Times

, First Cuban demonstrator killed after police ‘open fire on peaceful protest’ while reporter arrested, Nzuchi Times

Scores of riot police are seen walking the streets of Havana on Monday after anti-government protests

THE LARGEST PROTESTS FOR NEARLY 30 YEARS 

Thousands of protesters have taken to the streets of Cuba in ‘unprecedented’ demonstrations. 

On the Communist-run island, mass protests are rare as public dissent is usually restricted and demonstrators risk ending up in prison. 

But in the past year or so, Cuba has seen a growing number of protests – although nothing on this scale or simultaneously in so many cities. 

In November last year, a group of around 300 members and allies of a dissident artists collective in Havana protested against restrictions on civil liberties, the island’s economic crisis and growing inequality.

But the protests were quelled by Cuba’s government after the Culture Ministry accused the artists of being financed by the United States and providing ‘propaganda support’ for the country. 

In June last year, a group of Cubans said that state security agents had staked out their homes to prevent them from attending planned protests over the police killing of a young black man.  

No would-be protesters appeared able to make it to the site of what was supposed to be the main demonstration against the killing of 27-year-old Hansel Hernandez in Havana which was full of security forces at the time.  

Ahead of the planned protest, Cuban authorities harassed and detained scores of people, and accused some of the crime of ‘spreading an epidemic’, reports Human Rights Watch

The current anti-government demonstrations are the largest since the summer of 1994, said Michael Bustamante, an assistant professor of Latin American history at Florida International University.

‘Only now, they weren’t limited to the capital; they didn’t even start there, it seems,’ Bustamante said, as the protests broke out on Sunday in the San Antonio de los Banos municipality in Artemisa Province, bordering Havana.

On Sunday, protesters chanted ‘Freedom’, ‘Enough’ and ‘Unite’. 

And almost 27 years ago, on August 5, 1994, hundreds of Cubans marched through the streets of Havana chanted the same slogan of ‘Freedom’. 

The police and paramilitaries shot unarmed protesters and beat them down with batons, according to the NGO Cuba Center.  

Cuban authorities are often quick to shut down protests while politicians and the island’s official state media often discredit anti-government protesters by saying they are supporters of the United States. 

But on Sunday, the protests saw an unprecedented number of demonstrators taking to the streets simultaneously. 

US Senator Marco Rubio tweeted that Sunday was ‘a historic day of unprecedented protests going on against socialism in Cuba’.  

The Republican later shared a video of hundreds of people in front of the National Capitol building in Havana and said: ‘We have never seen a day like today in Cuba. 

’62 years of misery, repression and lies boiling over into organic, grassroots protests in over 32 cities.’    

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Additional footage posted on Twitter appears to show Stars being escorted by two police officers into a vehicle outside her building.  

Before her reported arrest, Stars tweeted that she had been called by the Interior Ministry to request a ‘meeting’ and when she refused, they said they would serve her ‘legal summons’. 

She tweeted: ‘I have just been called on the phone by people from the MININT [Ministry of the Interior of the Republic of Cuba] who at the time summoned me to ‘meet’ I said no, they told me that they were going to give me a legal summons. 

‘As soon as I get the summons I will attend with my head held high, I have nothing to hide. I keep you up to top.’

It is unclear whether Stars has been released by the police.

The activist’s alleged arrest comes after two days of protests in Cuba, which the government blame on the U.S.  

On Sunday, Cubans marched on Havana’s Malecon promenade and elsewhere on the island to protest food shortages, restrictions on civil liberties, the government’s handling of the pandemic and soaring inflation, which some economists believe could hit 900 per cent this year.

Relatives and friends of those detained during and after Sunday’s historic demonstrations engaged in a desperate search on Tuesday for news on their whereabouts.

‘They took him from the house handcuffed and beaten, without a shirt, without a mask,’ said a 50-year-old woman who did not wish to give her name, enquiring about her 21-year-old son at a police station in the capital.

‘They took many from the neighborhood, young and old,’ she said, before leaving empty-handed.

Cuba’s San Isidro free speech protest movement published late on Monday a list on Twitter of 144 people held or reported as disappeared after thousands of Cubans took to the streets in dozens of cities and towns in a spontaneous outburst of public anger. 

‘They took my daughter yesterday (Monday) and I have no news of her,’ said a woman at a Havana police station.

A young man said his brother, 25, was taken from a neighbor’s house. ‘They gave him a tremendous blow, unjustly, and took him away,’ he said.

A police official told worried family members that those arrested were taken to different detention centers, without providing details of who went where.

Julie Chung, acting assistant secretary in the US State Department’s Bureau for Western Hemisphere affairs, called in a tweet Monday for the ‘immediate release’ of the detainees.

‘Violence and detentions of Cuban protesters & disappearances of independent activists… remind us that Cubans pay dearly for freedom and dignity,’ she said.

Those held included dissident Guillermo Farinas, former political prisoner Jose Daniel Ferrer and artist Luis Manuel Otero Alcantara. 

Among those arrested was theater director Yunior Garcia, a leader of the 27N movement which was born after a much smaller protest by members of the art community on November 27 last year to demand free speech.

Garcia said on Facebook that he and a group of friends were beaten ‘and forcefully dragged and thrown into a truck.’

‘We were treated like rubbish,’ he said, adding they were taken to a detention center in Havana where they saw ‘dozens of young people’ arrive.

He was released on Monday afternoon.

Also arrested on Monday was Camila Acosta, a Cuban correspondent for the Spanish newspaper ABC, its foreign editor said.

Spain’s foreign ministry on Tuesday urged the Cuban authorities to respect the right to protest and demanded that Cuba ‘immediately’ release Acosta.

Havana still had a heavy police presence Tuesday, with officers particularly guarding key points such as the Malecon promenade and the Capitol. Internet and cellphone data service continued to be disrupted.

There were no reports of new protests, which the government has sought to blame on Cuban Americans using social media to instigate unrest in Cuba.

Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel on Monday accused Cuban Americans of using social media to spur the rare outpouring of weekend protests. Protesters in Cuba had also been using social media and their phones to join together and post pictures of what was happening. 

In response, the Communist authorities were blocking Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram and Telegram, said Alp Toker, director of Netblocks, a London-based internet monitoring company.

In the capital, there have been regular and atypical mobile internet outages since Sunday, according to witnesses.

‘The pattern of restrictions observed in Cuba indicate an ongoing crackdown on messaging platforms used to organize and share news of protests in real-time,’ said Toker. ‘At the same time, some connectivity is preserved to maintain a semblance of normality.’

Facebook, which owns Instagram and WhatsApp, said that it was concerned about its services being restricted in Cuba, in a statement to Reuters late on Tuesday.

‘We oppose shutdowns, throttling, and other disruptions of the internet that limit the debate of our community. We hope connectivity will be restored as soon as possible so that Cubans can communicate with family and friends,’ said Joe Osborne, a Facebook spokesperson.

Asked whether the government was intentionally restricting internet connections, Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez told a news briefing the situation was ‘complicated.’ He said power outages could impact telecommunications services and ‘Cuba would never renounce the right to defend itself.’ 

, First Cuban demonstrator killed after police &#8216;open fire on peaceful protest&#8217; while reporter arrested, Nzuchi Times

, First Cuban demonstrator killed after police &#8216;open fire on peaceful protest&#8217; while reporter arrested, Nzuchi Times

Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel denounced vandalism across various cities on Sunday in Cuba’s biggest anti-government demonstrations in decades as some protesters overturned police cars in Havana

, First Cuban demonstrator killed after police &#8216;open fire on peaceful protest&#8217; while reporter arrested, Nzuchi Times

, First Cuban demonstrator killed after police &#8216;open fire on peaceful protest&#8217; while reporter arrested, Nzuchi Times

Plainclothes police officers detain a person during protests outside the Capitol building in Havana on Sunday

, First Cuban demonstrator killed after police &#8216;open fire on peaceful protest&#8217; while reporter arrested, Nzuchi Times

, First Cuban demonstrator killed after police &#8216;open fire on peaceful protest&#8217; while reporter arrested, Nzuchi Times

Cuban demonstrators face down members of the security services in Havana on Sunday

SANCTIONS AND COVID CAUSE ECONOMY TO FREEFALL 

Cubans are now taking to the streets to protest against the island’s economic crisis, restrictions on civil liberties and the government’s handling of the pandemic.  

The Caribbean island has been experiencing a worsening economic crisis for two years, which the government blames mostly on U.S. sanctions imposed by the Trump administration and the pandemic, while its detractors cite incompetence and a Soviet-style one-party system.   

A combination of sanctions, inefficiencies and the pandemic has shut down tourism and slowed other foreign revenue flows in a country dependent on them to import the bulk of its food, fuel and inputs for agriculture and manufacturing.

The economy contracted 10.9 per cent last year, and 2 per cent through June of 2021. The resulting cash crunch has spawned shortages that have forced Cubans to queue for hours for basic goods such as food and medicine throughout the pandemic.

The acute supply shortages further stressed an already weak economy. In 2020, the government officials called on Cubans to grow more of their food, reports Amnesty International

The American economic embargo of Cuba has been blamed for the island’s worsening economic crisis – and the coronavirus pandemic has made this worse. 

The Trump administration imposed policies that tightened economic, commercial and financial sanctions and restricted travel by U.S. citizens in a blow to Cuba’s tourism sector, which caused the country to record losses estimated at around $5 billion. 

Last month, the U.S. voted against a UN resolution that overwhelmingly condemned the American economic embargo of Cuba. 

Before the vote, the U.S. Mission’s political coordinator, Rodney Hunter, told the assembly that the Biden administration voted ‘no’ because the United States believes sanctions are key to advancing democracy and human rights which ‘remain at the core of our policy efforts toward Cuba.’  

The economic embargo was imposed in 1960 following the revolution led by Fidel Castro and the nationalization of properties belonging to U.S. citizens and corporations. Two years later it was strengthened.

Former Cuban President Raul Castro and then-President Barack Obama officially restored relations in July 2016, and that year the U.S. abstained on the resolution calling for an end to the embargo for the first time. 

But Obama’s successor, Donald Trump, sharply criticized Cuba’s human rights record, and in 2017 the U.S. again voted against the resolution.

The move by Biden last month now means the government will maintain the Trump administration’s opposition.

 

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Telegram did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Twitter said it found no blocking of its service.

‘Our weapon is the internet. If they take away the internet we are unarmed,’ said Havana resident Gino Ocumares, as he tried but failed to connect to the web at a government Wi-Fi hotspot. ‘The government does not want people to see the truth.’ 

State-run media also reported on Tuesday that Raul Castro, who stepped down as head of the ruling Cuban Communist Party in April, attended a meeting on Sunday of the political bureau to address the ‘provocations.’

Diaz-Canel said in April he would continue to consult Castro on matters of utmost importance.

‘On July 11, there were riots, there were disorders on a very limited scale, opportunistically taking advantage of the difficult conditions in which we Cubans are living today,’ Rodriguez said Tuesday, adding that government experts had found evidence of outsiders using sophisticated equipment to widely broadcast alarmist and inciting messages over social media.

But, Rodriguez said, ‘On July 11, there was no social explosion in Cuba. There was not because of the will of our people and because of the support of our people for the revolution and its government.’ 

The Cuban Bishops Conference said in a statement it was worried that the response to protests over legitimate concerns would be ‘immobilism’ rather than an attempt to resolve them, and even a counterproductive hardening of positions.

‘We understand that the government has responsibilities and has tried to take measures to alleviate the aforementioned difficulties, but we also understand that the people have the right to express their needs, desires and hopes,’ they said in a statement. 

Reaction to the protest in Latin America split along ideological lines, with Mexico’s president blaming the U.S. embargo for fomenting the unrest, while Chile and Peru urged the government to allow pro-democracy protests.

President Joe Biden said Monday that the United States ‘stands firmly with the people of Cuba as they assert their universal rights.’

State Department spokesman Ned Price called on the Havana government to open all means of communication, both online and offline.

‘Shutting down technology, shutting down information pathways – that does nothing to address the legitimate needs and aspirations of the Cuban people,’ Price told a news briefing on Tuesday.        

The last major protests, and the first since the revolution that brought Fidel Castro to power in 1959, were in 1994.

Those were also against economic hardship but were limited to the capital and quickly put down by police. 

Mayor Francis Suarez of Miami, Florida, has said Biden should consider airstrikes on Cuba in support of Havana dissidents living in the United States.

Talk of possible American military action in Cuba prompted warnings Tuesaday from Iran, Russia and China.  

In Moscow, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said the Kremlin ‘stressed the inadmissibility of foreign interference and other destructive actions that are fraught with the destabilization in Cuba.’

A spokesperson for the Chinese Foreign Ministry in Beijing said ‘the US embargo is the root cause of Cuba’s shortage of medicines and energy.’ 

‘China firmly opposes foreign interference in Cuba’s internal affairs, firmly supports what Cuba has done in fighting COVID-19, improving people’s livelihood and upholding social stability, and firmly supports Cuba in exploring a development path suited to its national conditions,’ Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said. 

Iran, which has also faced economic sanctions imposed on it by Washington, echoed the sentiments of Russia and China.

‘In this situation, where the United States is primarily responsible for the many problems created for the Cuban people, it is trying to appear as a supporter of the Cuban protests and has tried to interfere in the internal affairs of this country in a blatant violation of international rules,’ Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Saeed Khatibzadeh told reporters on Tuesday.

Suarez, the 43-year-old Miami-born lawyer whose father was the first Cuban-born mayor of the South Florida city, told Fox News on Tuesday that the option of military air strikes ‘has to be explored.’

‘What should be contemplated right now is a coalition of potential military action in Cuba, similar to what has happened… in both Republican and Democrat administrations,’ Suarez said. 

, First Cuban demonstrator killed after police &#8216;open fire on peaceful protest&#8217; while reporter arrested, Nzuchi Times

, First Cuban demonstrator killed after police &#8216;open fire on peaceful protest&#8217; while reporter arrested, Nzuchi Times

Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel (center) walks accompanied by supporters in San Antonio de los Banos on Sunday

, First Cuban demonstrator killed after police &#8216;open fire on peaceful protest&#8217; while reporter arrested, Nzuchi Times

, First Cuban demonstrator killed after police &#8216;open fire on peaceful protest&#8217; while reporter arrested, Nzuchi Times

Thousands of Cubans took part in rare protests Sunday against the Communist government, marching through a town chanting ‘Down with the dictatorship’ and ‘We want liberty.’ The image above shows Cubans in Havana on Sunday

, First Cuban demonstrator killed after police &#8216;open fire on peaceful protest&#8217; while reporter arrested, Nzuchi Times

, First Cuban demonstrator killed after police &#8216;open fire on peaceful protest&#8217; while reporter arrested, Nzuchi Times

A man is arrested during a demonstration against the government of Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel in Havana on Sunday

On Monday, Biden urged Cuba’s government to end ‘decades of repression and economic suffering’.    

But the Cuban government has blamed the island’s worsening economic crisis on U.S. sanctions, while Russia and Mexico have condemned ‘outside interference’ in an apparent swipe against Biden’s administration. 

The images of protests in Cuba that went viral on social media on Sunday prompted officials in the U.S. to call for an American-led intervention to topple the ruling government in Havana.  

Biden has since urged Cuba’s communist government to ‘hear’ the protesters and said the U.S. stands with the Cuban people and their call for freedom.   

‘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 a statement on Monday.

‘The Cuban people are bravely asserting fundamental and universal rights. Those rights, including the right of peaceful protest and the right to freely determine their own future, must be respected. 

‘The United States calls on the Cuban regime to hear their people and serve their needs at this vital moment rather than enriching themselves.’

The strongly worded statement was sure to anger Cuba’s leaders, who claim Washington is stirring up the rare mass street protests in the authoritarian country.

President Diaz-Canel on Monday said U.S. economic sanctions, which have been tightened in recent years, were cause of the island’s turmoil, calling it a ‘policy of economic suffocation to provoke social unrest in the country.’

Appearing alongside his Cabinet in a televised address, Diaz-Canel accused the U.S. of causing the shortages of food, medicines and power outages.

He also blamed a social media campaign for weaponizing the shortages against what he called Communist-run Cuba’s revolution.

Meanwhile, Mexico’s President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador rushed to support Diaz-Canel and warned against an ‘interventionist approach’ to the protests, while demanding the US economic embargo of Cuba be ended to help its people.

He appeared to accuse Biden’s administration of not wanting to help Cubans in their economic turmoil. 

‘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,’ Lopez Obrador told a news conference. 

‘That would be a truly humanitarian gesture,’ he added. ‘No country in the world should be fenced in, blockaded.’

Lopez Obrador, one of the most prominent leftists in Latin America, expressed his solidarity with the Cuban people and urged countries not to intervene in the Communist-run country, nor to exploit the situation for political ends.

Urging a peaceful resolution to the protests, Lopez Obrador said Mexico would be ready to send medicines, vaccines and food to Cuba if its government requested it.

Russia on Monday also warned against any ‘outside interference’ in Cuba in an apparent swipe at the U.S.     

‘We consider it unacceptable for there to be outside interference in the internal affairs of a sovereign state or any destructive actions that would encourage the destabilization of the situation on the island,’ foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said in a statement.

She did not explain who might be trying to interfere in Cuba, but the warning appeared directed at the U.S., which has urged Cuba not to target protesters and where thousands of Cuban Americans have taken to the streets to support the demonstrations.

‘We are closely following the development of the situation in and around Cuba,’ Zakharova said.

‘We are convinced that Cuban authorities are taking all necessary measures to restore public order in the interests of the country’s citizens and within the framework of the Constitution.’

Cuba was an important Cold War ally of the former Soviet Union and Moscow has continued to have good diplomatic relations with Havana since the 1991 collapse of the USSR. 

, First Cuban demonstrator killed after police &#8216;open fire on peaceful protest&#8217; while reporter arrested, Nzuchi Times

, First Cuban demonstrator killed after police &#8216;open fire on peaceful protest&#8217; while reporter arrested, Nzuchi Times

Cuban riot police are out in force on the country’s streets as the authorities block social media networks in a bid to end ‘unprecedented’ protests over high prices and food shortages

, First Cuban demonstrator killed after police &#8216;open fire on peaceful protest&#8217; while reporter arrested, Nzuchi Times

, First Cuban demonstrator killed after police &#8216;open fire on peaceful protest&#8217; while reporter arrested, Nzuchi Times

Cubans under the effects of tear gas take part in a demonstration against the government of Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel in front of Havana’s Capitol

, First Cuban demonstrator killed after police &#8216;open fire on peaceful protest&#8217; while reporter arrested, Nzuchi Times

, First Cuban demonstrator killed after police &#8216;open fire on peaceful protest&#8217; while reporter arrested, Nzuchi Times

A pro-government protester is seen during a demonstration against the government of Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel in Havana on Sunday

, First Cuban demonstrator killed after police &#8216;open fire on peaceful protest&#8217; while reporter arrested, Nzuchi Times

, First Cuban demonstrator killed after police &#8216;open fire on peaceful protest&#8217; while reporter arrested, Nzuchi Times

Demonstrators are seen above protesting on the streets of Havana on Sunday

, First Cuban demonstrator killed after police &#8216;open fire on peaceful protest&#8217; while reporter arrested, Nzuchi Times

, First Cuban demonstrator killed after police &#8216;open fire on peaceful protest&#8217; while reporter arrested, Nzuchi Times

Security forces loyal to the government detain a protester Sunday in Havana, Cuba

Riot police who were clad in black body armour and helmets while carrying batons and shields were seen arresting dozens of demonstrators who had gone out to protest again on Monday.  

The move by the Cuban authorities to fill the streets with armed police in a bid to quell the protests comes after U.S. President Joe Biden described the demonstrations as ‘a call for freedom’ and urged Cuba’s communist government to end ‘decades of repression and economic suffering’.

On Sunday, many young people took part in the afternoon protest in the capital, which disrupted traffic until police moved in after several hours and broke up the march when a few protesters threw rocks. 

Special forces vehicles, with machine guns mounted on the back, were seen throughout the capital and the police presence was heavy even long after most protesters had gone home by the 9pm curfew in place due to the pandemic.

Police initially trailed behind as protesters chanted ‘Freedom,’ ‘Enough’ and ‘Unite.’ One motorcyclist pulled out a US flag, but it was snatched from him by others. 

‘We are fed up with the queues, the shortages. That’s why I’m here,’ one middle-aged protester told the Associated Press. He declined to identify himself for fear of being arrested later. 

In an address to the country, Diaz-Canel blamed the US for stoking anger, and said: ‘We are prepared to do anything. We will be battling in the streets.’ 

Cuba is going through its worst economic crisis since the fall of the Soviet Union, along with a resurgence of coronavirus cases, as it suffers the consequences of US sanctions imposed by the Trump administration. 

It comes months after six decades of the Castro family dominating Cuban politics ended with 89-year-old Raul Castro relinquishing the country’s most powerful position – that of party first secretary – to Diaz-Canel. 

The government blames the crisis on U.S. sanctions and the pandemic, while its detractors cite incompetence and a Soviet-style one-party system. 

The Caribbean island has been experiencing a worsening economic crisis for two years, which the government blames mostly on U.S. sanctions imposed by the Trump administration and the pandemic, while its detractors cite incompetence and a Soviet-style one-party system.   

, First Cuban demonstrator killed after police &#8216;open fire on peaceful protest&#8217; while reporter arrested, Nzuchi Times

, First Cuban demonstrator killed after police &#8216;open fire on peaceful protest&#8217; while reporter arrested, Nzuchi Times

A man is arrested during a demonstration against the government of Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel in Havana on Sunday

, First Cuban demonstrator killed after police &#8216;open fire on peaceful protest&#8217; while reporter arrested, Nzuchi Times

, First Cuban demonstrator killed after police &#8216;open fire on peaceful protest&#8217; while reporter arrested, Nzuchi Times

Thousands are seen marching in the streets of the Cuban capital on Sunday

, First Cuban demonstrator killed after police &#8216;open fire on peaceful protest&#8217; while reporter arrested, Nzuchi Times

, First Cuban demonstrator killed after police &#8216;open fire on peaceful protest&#8217; while reporter arrested, Nzuchi Times

President Miguel Diaz-Canel called on supporters to take to the streets as a response to the protest against his government

, First Cuban demonstrator killed after police &#8216;open fire on peaceful protest&#8217; while reporter arrested, Nzuchi Times

, First Cuban demonstrator killed after police &#8216;open fire on peaceful protest&#8217; while reporter arrested, Nzuchi Times

Cuban police detain an anti-government demonstrator during a protest Sunday in Havana

A combination of sanctions, inefficiencies and the pandemic has shut down tourism and slowed other foreign revenue flows in a country dependent on them to import the bulk of its food, fuel and inputs for agriculture and manufacturing.

The economy contracted 10.9 percent last year, and 2 percent through June of 2021. The resulting cash crunch has spawned shortages that have forced Cubans to queue for hours for basic goods such as food and medicine throughout the pandemic.

The acute supply shortages further stressed an already weak economy. In 2020, the government officials called on Cubans to grow more of their food, reports Amnesty International

The American economic embargo of Cuba has been blamed for the island’s worsening economic crisis – and the coronavirus pandemic has made the situation worse. 

The Trump administration imposed policies that tightened economic, commercial and financial sanctions and restricted travel by U.S. citizens in a blow to Cuba’s tourism sector, which caused the country to record losses estimated at around $5 billion. 

Last month, the U.S. voted against a UN resolution that overwhelmingly condemned the American economic embargo of Cuba. 

Before the vote, the U.S. Mission’s political coordinator, Rodney Hunter, told the assembly that the Biden administration voted ‘no’ because the United States believes sanctions are key to advancing democracy and human rights which ‘remain at the core of our policy efforts toward Cuba.’ 

The economic embargo was imposed in 1960 following the revolution led by Fidel Castro and the nationalization of properties belonging to U.S. citizens and corporations. Two years later it was strengthened.

Former Cuban President Raul Castro and then-President Barack Obama officially restored relations in July 2016, and that year the U.S. abstained on the resolution calling for an end to the embargo for the first time. 

But Obama’s successor, Donald Trump, sharply criticized Cuba’s human rights record, and in 2017 the U.S. again voted against the resolution.

The move by Biden last month now means the government will maintain the Trump administration’s opposition. 

Sunday’s protest is rare for Cuba, where mass demonstrations and public dissent is usually restricted and demonstrators risk ending up in prison. 

But in the past year or so, Cuba has seen a growing number of protests – although nothing on this scale or simultaneously in so many cities. 

In November last year, a group of around 300 members and allies of a dissident artists collective in Havana protested against restrictions on civil liberties, the island’s economic crisis and growing inequality.

But the protests were quelled by Cuba’s government after the Culture Ministry accused the artists of being financed by the United States and providing ‘propaganda support’ for the country. 

In June last year, a group of Cubans said that state security agents had staked out their homes to prevent them from attending planned protests over the police killing of a young black man.  

No would-be protesters appeared able to make it to the site of what was supposed to be the main demonstration against the killing of 27-year-old Hansel Hernandez in Havana which was full of security forces at the time.  

Ahead of the planned protest, Cuban authorities harassed and detained scores of people, and accused some of the crime of ‘spreading an epidemic’, reports Human Rights Watch

The current anti-government demonstrations are the largest since the summer of 1994, said Michael Bustamante, an assistant professor of Latin American history at Florida International University.

‘Only now, they weren’t limited to the capital; they didn’t even start there, it seems,’ Bustamante said, as the protests broke out on Sunday in the San Antonio de los Banos municipality in Artemisa province, bordering Havana.

On Sunday, protesters chanted ‘Freedom’, ‘Enough’ and ‘Unite’. 

And almost 27 years ago, on Aug. 5, 1994, hundreds of Cubans marched through the streets of Havana chanted the same slogan of ‘Freedom’. 

The police and paramilitaries shot unarmed protesters and beat them down with batons, according to the NGO Cuba Center.  

Cuban authorities are often quick to shut down protests while politicians and the island’s official state media often discredit anti-government protesters by saying they are supporters of the United States. 

But on Sunday, the protests saw an unprecedented number of demonstrators taking to the streets simultaneously. 

US Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida tweeted that Sunday was ‘a historic day of unprecedented protests going on against socialism in Cuba’.  

The Republican later shared a video of hundreds of people in front of the National Capitol building in Havana and said: ‘We have never seen a day like today in Cuba.’ 

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