Demonstrators in Cuba took to the streets over the weekend to protest the government and demand freedom.
Demonstrations began in Caimanera, a small fishing village near the US military base in Guantánamo, and videos of the protests posted on social media showed demonstrators clashing with men in military uniforms and civilian clothes, according to a Reuters report.
Protesters could be heard chanting anti-government chants and calling for “freedom” in the first known demonstrations of the year in the communist country.
Tensions have risen in recent weeks as the country grapples with a fuel shortage that has crippled public transport, power generation and food supplies.
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The protests were minimized by state radio Mabel Pozo, who used social media to say that “several citizens, some in a state of drunkenness, shouted statements against the Cuban social process and about their dissatisfactions”.
Pozo also said that “the security forces and other people contributed to dissuade the people gathered in the street, who responded and returned to their homes”.
CubaDebate, a state-owned digital media outlet, also downplayed the demonstrations, arguing that people were more “curious than the participants” and branding the protests a “show” falsely publicized by anti-government activists.
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“The Cuban dictatorship and its propaganda apparatus will always downplay peaceful protests against its tyrannical rule because they don’t fit its narrative,” Senator Marco Rubio, Republican of Florida, said in response to the protests when contacted by Fox News Digital.
Rubio, a fierce defender of freedom in Cuba, argued that “the Cuban people are fed up with the Communist Party, which denies basic freedoms and fails to meet the basic needs of Cubans across the island.
“The US must continue to provide the Cuban people with access to outside information that undoes the regime’s lies.”
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The most recent protests came nearly two years after massive anti-government demonstrations rocked the country, and some of those who took part are still in prison despite government laws that are supposed to protect the right to protest.
The US embassy in Havana condemned the government’s handling of the demonstrations.
“Last night, Cuban security forces responded violently to peaceful protests in the city of Caimanera, beating citizens for demanding human rights,” the embassy said on Twitter. “Cuba also closed its internet for fear of freedom of expression. Cuban repression of its citizens’ rights is cruel and pointless; freedom always wins.”