Cuba blames unrest on U.S. sanctions, social media campaigns

The protests erupted amid Cuba's worst economic crisis since the fall of the Soviet Union, its old ally, and a record surge in coronavirus infections.

A woman holds a placard reading "Freedom for Cuba" as others demonstrate holding Cuban and US National flags during a protest against the Cuban government in Miami

Havana - Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel on Monday blamed U.S. sanctions, tightened in recent years, for the medicine shortages, power outages and other economic short comings that fueled unusual protests this weekend.

Appearing alongside his Cabinet in a televised address, he also blamed a social media campaign for weaponizing the shortages against what he called Communist-run Cuba's revolution. Diaz-Canel denounced vandalism across various cities on Sunday in Cuba's biggest anti-government demonstrations in decades. "They threw stones at foreign currency shops, they stole items ... and at police forces, they turned over cars - atotally vulgar, indecent and delinquent behavior," he said. The protests erupted amid Cuba's worst economic crisis since the fall of the Soviet Union, its old ally, and a record surge in coronavirus infections. The government blames the crisis on U.S. sanctions and thepandemic, while its detractors cite incompetence and a Soviet-style one-party system. President Joe Biden on Monday said the United States stands with the people of Cuba in their call for freedom and relief from the coronavirus pandemic and decades of repression.

"The Cuban people are bravely asserting fundamental and universal rights. Those rights, including the right of peaceful protest and the right to freely determine their own future, must be respected," Biden said. "The United States calls on the Cuban regime to hear theirpeople and serve their needs at this vital moment rather thanenriching themselves."

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