Press release July 13, 2021
Cuba: Authorities Must Refrain From Inciteful Language, Use of Force against Peaceful Protests
Cubans took to the streets in the largest antigovernment protests since the 1990s over access to basic goods, the country’s economic situation, and the COVID-19 response, while authorities resorted to force and communications disruptions
In response to nationwide protests against the Cuban government, inciteful comments from President Miguel Díaz-Canel Bermúdez, and a violent crackdown that has led to hundreds of injuries and arrests, Freedom House issued the following statement:
“We condemn the violence exercised by the Cuban regime against its people on Sunday. The international community must emphatically denounce the ‘combat order’ issued by Cuban president Miguel Díaz-Canel Bermúdez, which could prompt continued violence. We condemn the use of security forces to intimidate protesters, the deployment of armed riot officers with dogs, and the use of pepper spray. We demand justice for the victims. We support the Cuban people who peacefully protested to demand their fundamental freedoms,” said Gerardo Berthin, director for Latin America and Caribbean programs at Freedom House.
Several thousand Cubans took part in the largest protests seen in the country in over 20 years3 on July 11th, voicing their anger over the country’s economic situation, shortages of basic goods, and the government’s COVID-19 response. The protests began as a demonstration in San Antonio de Los Baños, southwest of Havana, and quickly spread throughout the country.
In response, President Díaz-Canel called on his followers to oppose the protesters, saying that “the order to combat has been given” in televised remarks. Security forces, including plainclothes officers, worked to forcefully disperse the protests. Numerous people were shot, while hundreds were beaten, injured or arrested. Journalists covering the events in Havana witnessed the authorities charging protesters and deploying tear gas and pepper spray. Associated Press (AP) photojournalist Ramón Espinosa suffered a broken nose when he was attacked by Havana police, while the equipment of another AP journalist was destroyed by progovernment counter protesters. A major police presence in the city was maintained overnight.
Cubans also took to social media platforms to voice their discontent and broadcast their activities online. In response, the authorities resorted to disrupting internet services throughout the afternoon of the 11th. By Monday, July 12th, authorities blocked access to Facebook, Instagram, Telegram, and WhatsApp.
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