CHICAGO – Cuban Chicagoans filled city streets Monday in solidarity with demonstrators in Havana, Cuba.
This past weekend, rare anti-government demonstrations broke out as food and medicine shortages sweep the country, causing thousands in Cuba to push back against the tightly controlled country.
“People have to say ‘enough is enough,'” said 90 Miles Cuban Cafe owner Alberto Gonzalez. “I lived in Cuba and know what it’s like not to eat for a few days. I left in 1980. I can only imagine today how bad it is.”
Many young people took part in demonstrations in Havana. Protests were also held elsewhere on the island, including in the small town of San Antonio de los Baños, where people objected to power outages and were visited by President Miguel Díaz-Canel. He entered a few homes, where he took questions from residents.
Authorities appeared determined to put a stop to the demonstrations. More than a dozen protesters were detained, including a leading Cuban dissident who was arrested trying to attend a march in Santiago, 559 miles (900 kilometers) east. The demonstrators disrupted traffic in the capital for several hours until some threw rocks, and police moved in and broke them up.
Internet service was spotty, possibly indicating an effort to prevent protesters from communicating with each other.
“I see what people are going through,” Gonzalez said. “They have family members dying because of lack of medicine, lack of health care, food. I would probably be doing the same thing. I’d probably be out there and revolting.”
Led by Díaz-Canel, Cuba is going through its worst economic crisis in decades. A spike in coronavirus cases, officials say, shares part of the blame.
The Cuban government also blamed US sanctions imposed by the Trump Administration for the collapsing economy.
In a statement Monday, U.S. President Joe Biden said Cuban protesters were asserting their basic rights.
“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 been subjected by Cuba’s authoritarian regime,″ Biden said.
The U.S. urges the Cuban government to serve their people ’’rather than enriching themselves,″ Biden added.
Protests were felt nationwide, including in Chicago, where many hoped the current uprising would help their people.
“All we want is the international community to help us,” said Austin Gonzalez, a Chicago resident.
“This is not something you put a band-aid on,” Gonzalez added. “It’s time to take action and be with the Cuban people and support them.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.