Cuba’s government says U.S. stoked five protests at weekend

By Thomson Reuters Mar 18, 2024 | 11:58 AM

HAVANA (Reuters) – Cuba’s government confirmed on Monday that five protests had taken place across the island on Sunday and warned citizens against what it said were lies and exaggerations on social media aimed at sparking a broader uprising.

Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel repeated a frequent accusation leveled by Havana that the United States was seeking to overthrow the island’s communist-run government, allegations the U.S. denies.

Rallies in protest of oppressive, hours-long blackouts and food shortages took place on Sunday in Santiago de Cuba, in nearby El Cobre and in Bayamo, the capital of Granma province, according to the Monday morning state newscast.

Smaller protests took place in Santa Marta, near the Varadero beach resort, and in Los Mangos, a neighborhood in the city of Matanzas, the report said.

“Officials in each case responded to the public,” said Humberto Lopez, a government spokesperson who delivered the newscast.

Party officials on Sunday characterized those exchanges as “respectful.”

Demonstrations are rare in Cuba, a country where authorities take a dim view of dissent. Sunday marked the largest single night of confirmed protests since October 2022, when power across the island was cut for nearly a week in the wake of Hurricane Ian.

Lopez showed posts from social media – including some from U.S. members of Congress – that he accused of seeking to confuse the situation or stoke anger by suggesting government repression or more widespread protests than was actually the case.

Diaz-Canel also pointed a finger at Washington.

“Mediocre politicians and networked terrorists lined up from South Florida to heat up the streets of #Cuba with interventionist messages and calls for chaos. They were left wanting,” Diaz-Canel said on X.

The Caribbean island nation appeared quiet on Monday, although the government said it expected blackouts to remain acute through the week, with electricity generation meeting only around two-thirds of demand.

(Reporting by Dave Sherwood, Editing by Rosalba O’Brien)