Ramon Espinosa / AP
Thousands of Cubans marched on Havana’s Malecon promenade and elsewhere on the island on Sunday to protest food shortages and high prices amid the coronavirus crisis, in one of the largest anti-government protests in memory .
Many young people took part in the afternoon’s demonstration in the capital, which disrupted traffic until police intervened after several hours and interrupted the march when a few protesters threw stones.
The police were initially left behind as the demonstrators chanted “Freedom”, “Enough” and “Unite”. A motorcyclist pulled out an American flag, but it was ripped off by others.
“We’re fed up with the queues, the shortage. That’s why I’m here,” a middle-aged protester told The Associated Press. He refused to identify himself for fear of being arrested later.
Ramon Espinosa / AP
Cuba is going through its worst economic crisis in decades, along with a resurgence of coronavirus cases.
The demonstration grew to a few thousand around Avenida Galeano and the demonstrators continued despite a few police charges and tear gas barrages. People standing on numerous balconies along the central thoroughfare of the Centro Habana district applauded the passing demonstrators. Others joined in the march.
Although many people tried to pull out their cell phones and broadcast the protest live, Cuban authorities shut down internet service throughout the afternoon.
About 2.5 hours after the start of the march, some protesters tore up cobblestones and threw them at the police, at which point the officers started arresting people and the protesters dispersed.
A group of government supporters also arrived in the area shouting slogans in support of the late President Fidel Castro and the revolution. Some of them assaulted an AP cameraman and photographer.
Demonstrations also took place elsewhere on the island, including in the small town of San Antonio de los Banos, where people protested against the power outages and were visited by President Miguel Díaz-Canel. He entered a few houses, where he answered questions from residents.
Subsequently, however, he accused the Cuban Americans of causing trouble.
“As if pandemic epidemics had not existed all over the world, the Cuban-American mafia, paying very well on social networks to influencers and YouTubers, created a whole campaign … and called for protests in the whole country, “he added. Canel told reporters.