Many protestors faced tear gas, violent clashes with police officers and were arrested as they called for the resignation of President Miguel Díaz-Canel. Díaz-Canel blamed the U.S. sanctions for much of the economic hardship being experienced in Cuba and referred to the demonstrators as “vandals” and “mercenaries hired by the U.S.” to destabilize the country. Díaz-Canel called on his supporters to defend the country against the demonstrators and to defend the revolution that brought the Communist party to power in 1959. He reiterated that the U.S. sanctions were mostly to be blamed for the issues facing the communist-run island. The Trump Administration imposed tough economic sanctions against Cuba which the Biden Administration has yet to lift.
President Joseph R. Biden issued the following statement on July 12, 2021 regarding the protests and turmoil in Cuba:
“We stand with the Cuban people and their clarion call for freedom and relief from the tragic grip of the pandemic and from the decades of repression and economic suffering to which they have ben subjected by Cuba’s authoritarian regime. The Cuban people are bravely asserting fundamental and university rights. Those rights, including the right of peaceful protest and the right to freely determine their own future, must be respected. The United States calls on the Cuban regime to hear their people and serve their needs at this year vital moment rather enriching themselves.”
In addition to a collapsed economy, Cubans are facing power outages, food shortages and rising prices of basic goods. Last year, Cuba’s economy reportedly shrank by 11 percent, the sharpest decline in nearly three decades. This was brought on by a fall in tourism due to COVID-19 restrictions, a poor sugar harvest this year, and a lack of imported goods due to the country’s reserve of foreign currency being depleted. Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador stated that his country stands ready to help with humanitarian aid and that other countries should abstain from intervening in Cuba but that if the U.S. wanted to help, it should lift its sanctions imposed on the country.