Chanting ‘Freedom’ thousands protest across communist Cuba amid food shortages and price hikes

National News

Police scuffle and detain an anti-government demonstrator during a protest in Havana, Cuba, Sunday July 11, 2021. Hundreds of demonstrators went out to the streets in several cities in Cuba to protest against ongoing food shortages and high prices of foodstuffs, amid the new coronavirus crisis. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)

HAVANA (AP) — Thousands of Cubans marched on Havana’s Malecon promenade and elsewhere on the communist island Sunday to protest food shortages and high prices amid the coronavirus crisis, in one of biggest anti-government demonstrations in memory.

Many young people took part in the afternoon protest in the capital, which disrupted traffic until police moved in after several hours and broke up the march when a few protesters threw rocks.

Police initially trailed behind as protesters chanted “Freedom,” “Enough” and “Unite.” One motorcyclist pulled out a U.S. flag, but it was snatched from him by others.

“We are fed up with the queues, the shortages. That’s why I’m here,” one middle-age protester told The Associated Press. He declined to identify himself for fear of being arrested later.

Communist Cuba is going through its worst economic crisis in decades, along with a resurgence of coronavirus cases, as it suffers the consequences of U.S. sanctions imposed by the Trump administration.

The demonstration grew to a few thousand in the vicinity of Galeano Avenue and the marchers pressed on despite a few charges by police officers and tear gas barrages. People standing on many balconies along the central artery in the Centro Habana neighborhood applauded the protesters passing by. Others joined in the march.

Although many people tried to take out their cellphones and broadcast the protest live, Cuban authorities shut down internet service throughout the afternoon.

About 2 1/2 hours into the march, some protesters pulled up cobblestones and threw them at police, at which point officers began arresting people and the marchers dispersed.

A group of communist government supporters also arrived in the area shouting slogans in favor of the late President Fidel Castro and the revolution. Some of them assaulted a cameraman and an AP photographer.

Demonstrations were also held elsewhere on the island, including the small town of San Antonio de los Banos, where people protested power outages and were visited by President Miguel Díaz-Canel. He entered a few homes, where he took questions from residents.

Afterward, though, he accused others of stirring up trouble.

“As if pandemic outbreaks had not existed all over the world, the Cuban-American mafia, paying very well on social networks to influencers and Youtubers, has created a whole campaign … and has called for demonstrations across the country,” Diaz-Canel told reporters.

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