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Cuba Counters Protest

Raul Castro attends event 6 days after protesters took to streets
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jul 17, 2021 3:05 PM CDT

(Newser) – Cuban officials rallied tens of thousands of supporters in the streets on Saturday—nearly a week after they were stunned by the most widespread protests in decades. President Miguel Díaz-Canel, accompanied by 90-year-old former President Raul Castro, appeared on the seafront Malecon boulevard that had seen some of the largest protests against shortages and the political system the previous weekend, the AP reports. He made an impassioned speech blaming unrest on the US and its economic embargo, "the blockade, aggression and terror," as a crowd waved Cuban flags and those of the July 26 Movement that Fidel Castro led during Cuba's revolution. "The enemy has returned to throw all it has at destroying the sacred unity and tranquility of the citizens," he said. He ended without the traditional cry of "Homeland or Death!"—a slogan mocked last week by protesters shouting, "Homeland and life!"

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Havana has been returning to normal in recent days, though mobile internet data service, which authorities cut on Sunday, remained limited. The demonstrations began when thousands of Cubans marched along the Malecon and elsewhere to protest food and medicine shortages, and power outages, with some calling for political change. Smaller protests continued Monday and Tuesday. Díaz-Canel responded by pointing to US economic sanctions, the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, and a social media campaign by Cuban American groups. But he later acknowledged some responsibility by leaders. Cabinet ministers then announced measures including permits for travelers to import food and medicine without limits and allowing people to use their ration books to obtain subsidized goods outside their hometowns. "The Cuban government has just shown that it could have allowed the entry of food and medicine without quantity limits or tariffs all along but chose not to do so for more than a year of the pandemic," wrote José Jasan Nieves, director of the independent digital newspaper, El Toque. "People twisted their arms."

(Read more Cuba stories.)

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