• Nondiah Khalayi

What's Happening in Cuba Right Now? The Largest Protest in More Than 6 Decades.

Cuba, one of the most influential states of the Caribbean region, has lately been filled with protests and unrest, the largest anti-government protest the country has witnessed in more than six decades.


The island of Cuba has been torn apart. The anti-government protests witnessed since July 11, 2021, show that it is no longer the paradise of social justice but a dictatorship.


The protests, consisting of thousands of people across more than 40 cities and towns, including the capital city of Havana, call for an end to Cuba’s 62-year old communist regime.



In this article, we will talk about:

Why are Cubans protesting?


- the Coronavirus crisis

- the economic situation

- Internet access

- an end to the 62-Year old Communist regime


What has been done about the protests?

What now?



Scores of protestors out on the streets in Cuba with Cuban flags
Scores of protestors out on the streets in Cuba. (Via: Getty Images)

Why are Cubans Protesting?


There are protests in Cuba, not primarily because of Covid-19 and its restrictions, but because Cubans are tired of the dictatorship in government. Coronavirus has only made it even more possible for the people of Cuba to fearlessly protest in a country where unauthorized public gatherings are illegal, and protests are rare.


The four main reasons why there are protests and unrest in Cuba include:


The Coronavirus crisis


The July 11th and subsequent protests resulted from societal exhaustion due to Cuba’s acute economic and health crises. Life in Cuba has become challenging following the government measures of handling Covid-19.


In 2020, Cuba seemed to have kept Covid-19 under control, but that is no longer the case now. Hospitals are full, and there are high records of infections and deaths that would have otherwise been handled.


The coronavirus crisis has led the government of Cuba to open shops where citizens can buy food and other basic things in foreign currencies. The problem is that the shops have angered those Cubans who have pesos instead of foreign currencies for a long time.


The long queues at the shops with the growing number of Covid-19 infections had become worrisome to the citizens.



People in Cuba with their masks on
People in Cuba with their masks on. (Via: Yamil Lage / AFP)

The Economic situation


Cuba largely relies on tourism, and with Covid-19 and border restrictions, its economy is paralyzed.


Tourism is not the only factor that can describe the economic situation in Cuba. There have been inflations in prices of foods and overall housing that have left most Cubans battling hunger.


Most importantly, shortages of food, medicine, and essential products have otherwise left many in devastating states.


Before the protests began, the grandson of the former President of Cuba, Fidel Castro, posted a video online that went viral. He arrogantly showed off his luxurious life in a Mercedes Benz in the video, yet people were starving.


The video, among other economic and poor governance reasons, made Cubans protest because it is evident that those in power and their children have a great life.


The government of Cuba had issued a report that they would stop banks from accepting cash deposits in dollars, the main currency that Cubans receive in remittances from abroad. This further angered Cubans who depended on their friends and families from abroad to support their basic needs amid the hard economic times.


Internet Access


Internet access in Cuba is barely four years old, with the introduction of mobile internet access only in 2018. Cubans often use social media networks to express their continued dissatisfaction with their communist government.


There is no doubt that internet access enabled Cubans to protest as videos were shared across social media at the start of the protest.


As much as internet access was blocked moments after the protests, people did not stop sharing videos of the protests after it was restored. This prompted more unrest across the country as people demanded better lives and the end of the communist regime.


Abraham Jimenez Enoa reported on the protests that:

“The only certainty right now is that the people of this country want a change, and the Internet is helping us fight for it.”

Internet access that had for decades been limited in Cuba is now helping Cubans fight for their freedom.



Protestors with pictures of Cuba’s late President Fidel Castro during a rally in Havana, Cuba, July 17
Protestors with pictures of Cuba’s late President Fidel Castro during a rally in Havana, Cuba, July 17. (Via: Alexandre Meneghini / Reuters)

An End to the 62-Year Old Communist Regime


All that Cubans want is an end to the 62-year old communist regime. Cubans are tired of staying silent.


The people of Cuba are tired of police brutality - evidenced by the shootings of unarmed citizens amid the protests. They are tired of going hungry for yet they faithfully work 8-hour shifts to support their economy.


Cubans are not satisfied with their government’s response to the resurgent Covid-19 - not to mention the social injustices that go unaccounted for over the decades.


What has been done about the protests


The onset of protests attracted an internet shutdown in Cuba in quest of containing the protests. But Cubans went on protesting regardless of the shutdown that was later restored.

The government of Cuba has so far issued mixed signals regarding the protest.


For example, President Miguel Díaz-Cane called the demonstrations "mercenaries" and added that:

"The order to fight has been given - into the street, revolutionaries!"

In another statement, the government has blamed the protests on the longstanding embargo on Cuba imposed by the United States. But none of these explains the unrest in Cuba because the people of Cuba want a change.


Several people have been detained with their families, not knowing where they are. Others have been injured and brutally handled by the police.


At the moment, there is no concrete step that the government has taken to address the issues of the protests other than temporarily lifting the tax on food and medicine imports.



A Cuban man surrounded by a mound of plantains
A Cuban man surrounded by a mound of plantains. (Via: Yamil Lage / AFP)

What Now?


The rare unrest and protests in Cuba leave the whole world watching to see the measures the government of Cuba will take. Other countries on the frontline of restoring peace and tranquility in Cuba should consider the pleas of Cubans.


Last Friday, the Cuban government approved a law allowing the formation of small and medium enterprises (SMEs), a first for the communist-ruled island nation. This will greatly help the economy and the Cubans.


Is this the moment when calls for a democratic Cuba can finally come to life? We'll have to wait and see.


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References

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-57802170


https://www.newyorker.com/news/daily-comment/is-cubas-communist-party-finally-losing-its-hold-on-the-country


https://www.politico.com/news/magazine/2021/07/21/cuba-protests-tania-bruguera-500421


https://www.wsj.com/articles/cuba-protests-whats-happening-11626112390


https://thewire.in/world/cuba-america-misunderstand-castro



Nondiah Khalayi is a Kenya-based Statistics and Programming student at Kenyatta University, a Health Science student at the University of the People, and also a Content Writer at IYOPS. Being an INFJ-T personality, she enjoys a calm life, coding, data analysis, reading, and writing multiple-niche research-based articles.


Inputs and Edits by Sovena Ngeth and Aswin Raghav R.