(Bloomberg) — Cuban state media acknowledged the outbreak of anti-government demonstrations on Sunday and blamed the protests on its “neo-liberal” opponents.
Images on social media showed crowds in Havana, the provincial town of San Antonio de los Banos and elsewhere. Large mobilizations against the regime are rare on the tightly-controlled island, which strictly curbs dissent.
“Those who fan these demonstrations don’t want the welfare of the people, but rather the privatization of health and education, and neo-liberalism,” state-controlled Prensa Latina cited President Miguel Diaz-Canel as saying.
Cuba has faced growing hunger after its economy was hit by a slump in tourist revenue since the pandemic struck. The government last year introduced emergency economic reforms in response to the downturn, including eliminating some subsidies, adjusting prices and wages, and ending the dual currency system.
Read More: Cuba to Phase Out Dual Currency System in Crisis Reform Package
“In an historic day of protests, the world is bearing witness as thousands of Cubans take to the streets to call for an end to dictatorship in their country,” said Democrat Senator Bob Menendez, the Chairman of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, in a statement. “Despite ongoing persecution on the island, Cubans are bravely joining to demand nothing more than the ability to live safely and speak their minds, freely, openly, and without fear.”