What’s Happening in Cuba? What You Should Know

Health Crisis Cuba BELatina Latinx
Photo courtesy of the Financial Times.

The health crisis in Cuba has reached a point of no return after the island registered another record number of contagions in 24 hours last Saturday. The communist country registered an alarming increase in contagions, with 6,750 cases, for a total of 231,568.

With 11.2 million inhabitants, the island reports 1,490 deaths of all ages.

Inside and outside the island, Cubans initiated a call for help on social media through the hashtag #SOSCuba, requesting a humanitarian corridor to help people deprived of electricity, running water, and medical supplies.

Videos recorded on cell phones across the country showed overcrowded patients in the corridors of medical centers, and the dead in private homes, claiming the farce of a medical system that the Castro government has sold to the world as the best in Latin America.

Activists and dissident groups have highlighted the situation in the tourist province of Matanzas, located 100 km east of Havana, where the high number of contagions collapsed health services.

Faced with the growing discontent of the population, the Cuban Foreign Ministry made a statement last Saturday. It acknowledged that the country is going through a “very complex” situation but argued that the allegations had been “distorted.”

“Some in an intentional and manipulated manner adduce the need for the implementation of humanitarian corridors, humanitarian intervention (…) These are concepts and terms related to situations of armed conflict, serious violations of international humanitarian law, which in no way and in no way have to do with what is happening today in our country,” the Ministry said.

From the Hashtag to the Streets

Following the movement on social media on Saturday and to the cry of “freedom,” thousands of Cubans took to the streets on Sunday in massive protests that had not been seen on the island since 1994.

With shouts of “freedom,” “down with the dictatorship,” and “Patria y Vida,” thousands of Cubans took to the streets in more than 20 locations throughout the country, the BBC reported.

According to Reuters, in Havana, thousands of people took to the streets, calling for the resignation of President Miguel Diaz-Canel and an end to the Castro dictatorship.

As is often the case in revolutionary discourse, Diaz-Canel, who also heads the Communist Party, blamed the unrest on Cuba’s old Cold War foe the United States, which tightened its decades-old trade embargo on the island in recent years, in a televised address Sunday afternoon.

Diaz-Canel said many protesters were sincere but manipulated by U.S.-orchestrated campaigns on social media and by “mercenaries” on the ground and warned that no more “provocations” would be tolerated, calling on his supporters to stand up to the “provocations.”

Reuters witnesses at the Havana protests saw security forces, aided by suspected plainclothes officers, detain some two dozen demonstrators. Police used pepper spray and beat some protesters and a photographer working for the Associated Press.

In one area of Havana, protesters vented their anger at an empty police car, rolling it over and throwing rocks at it. Elsewhere, they chanted “repressors” against riot police.

Some protesters said they took to the streets to participate after seeing what was happening on social media, which have become an increasingly important factor since the introduction of mobile Internet two and a half years ago, although connections were spotty on Sunday.

Protests in Havana began around 3 p.m. and fizzled out around 8 p.m., with some demonstrators surrendering after security forces thwarted their attempt to reach Revolution Square.

For its part, the Cuban community in Miami, the largest in the United States, joined the protests at the Versailles restaurant and showed its disdain for the island’s regime.

Meanwhile, contagions and deaths continue to haunt the corridors of hospitals and the homes of Cubans.