Due to COVID-19 Cuba has been hit hard economically, as their tourist industry has greatly suffered. Cubans face shortages of food and medicine, horrible heat waves, and being able to successfully navigate the COVID-19 crisis. Cuba also manufactures their own vaccines, named Soberana, Abdala, and Mambisa. These vaccines are promising solutions in helping control COVID cases; however, vaccine rollout could also be affected by the protests. The U.S. trade embargo (has more restrictions now) in Cuba is also to blame for the country’s economic problems. However, outdated policies and an inability to adopt market-oriented reforms has also slowed down progress. Cuba did not adopt these reforms which also accounts for a large proportion of Cubans living in poverty.
All of these policies have caused tension and resulted in protests against the government. Protestors want an end to dictatorship and want lasting change – which is one of their key demands. Protesters were detained, beaten, and dealt with harshly by police forces. In response to this, Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel blamed the US for the dissent, claiming American mercenaries were responsible, and urged supporters to defend the revolution. The type of anger and sentiment expressed by protesters is very significant – many are not worried about the consequences and want change.
Canada has taken a neutral stance and told protesters to be “inclusive” of all sides, that the government needs to listen to the demands of Cubans, support their struggle, and call out repression. Democracy is key to ensuring that Cubans’ goals are met, that they get adequate provisions they need to manage the pandemic, and that this type of conflict is prevented in the future. It is inhumane to deny Cubans these necessities during a time marked by new COVID variants and uncertainty. This protest and situation also make us cognizant of other areas of the world that may be underserved and continue to suffer, while these sorts of issues may not affect North America. We must all use our privilege to call out oppression, manipulative governmental tactics, and the denial of human rights. There are a lot of informational graphics circulating on Instagram and other social media posts, so that’s a great place to start to raise awareness!