Thousands Join Rare Anti-government Protests in Cuba

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 protest in San Antonio de los Banos, a town of about 50,000 people southwest of Havana, came as Cuba is experiencing its toughest phase yet of the coronavirus epidemic, the same day it reported a new daily record of infections and deaths.Some of the demonstrators, mainly young people, shouted insults against President Miguel Diaz-Canel, who turned up at the event, according to amateur videos posted online, while others proclaimed: “We are not afraid.”Social anger has been driven by long food lines and a critical shortage of medicines since the start of the COVID-19 epidemic, with Cuba under U.S. sanctions.The country of 11.2 million people was left relatively unscathed in the first months of the outbreak but has seen a recent hike in infections and a new record of 6,923 daily cases reported Sunday and 47 deaths for a total of 1,537.”These are alarming numbers, which are increasing daily,” said Francisco Duran, head of epidemiology in the health ministry.Under hashtags such as #SOSCuba, calls for assistance have multiplied on social media, with citizens and rap stars alike urging the government to make it possible for much-needed foreign donations to enter the country.An opposition group called Saturday for the creation of a “humanitarian corridor,” an initiative the government rejected by saying Cuba was not a conflict zone.Ernesto Soberon, a foreign affairs official, denounced it as a campaign that sought to “portray an image of total chaos in the country, which does not correspond to the situation.”

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