Friday

22nd Oct 2021

EU urges Cuba to let people protest

  • EU foreign relations chief Josep Borrell (Photo: consilium.europa.eu)

The Cuban government should listen to its people's grievances instead of reacting with a crackdown on the biggest demonstrations there in 30 years.

"There have been, as far as we know, demonstrations in major cities. People have been protesting about lack of medicine, about Covid, and against the regime there. This was a sign of discontent and they've now reached a level not seen since 1994," EU foreign relations chief Josep Borrell said in Brussels on Monday (12 July).

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"The Cuban people has a right to express its opinion and I would personally call on the government there to allow peaceful demonstrations and to listen to the voice of discontent from demonstrators", he also said.

Borrell spoke to press after chairing regular monthly talks with EU foreign ministers.

But events in Cuba were not on their agenda, he noted, because the demonstrations erupted late on Sunday night, when the EU meeting had already drafted its agenda.

For his part, US president Joe Biden echoed Borrell in remarks later the same day.

"The Cuban people are bravely asserting fundamental and universal rights," Biden said in a statement.

Information spilling out of the Caribbean dictatorship and favoured EU tourist destination onto social media in the past 48 hours showed people chanting slogans, looting state-owned shops, and confronting armed police with stones.

Some unverified reports also spoke of casualties at the hands of police.

The EU and US have long been at loggerheads over US sanctions on Cuba, with the EU saying the US trade embargo has aggravated its economic downturn and made it harder to buy medicine.

Biden said nothing about lifting the trade blockade on Monday.

But the government of Cuban president Miguel Díaz-Canel did speak out on the old enmity, blaming the West for having orchestrated the political upheaval.

"Shameful delinquents" were trying to "fracture" Cuba in events whipped up by US agents on social media, he said.

For his part, the Mexican president, left-winger Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, echoed Europe's stance on the US embargo.

"The truth is that if one wanted to help Cuba, the first thing that should be done is to suspend the blockade of Cuba as the majority of countries in the world are asking," he told a news conference Monday morning.

"That would be a truly humanitarian gesture ... No country in the world should be fenced in, blockaded," he added.

Venezuela pledged its support to the Cuban regime.

And a spokesperson for Russia's foreign ministry cautioned against "outside interference" that sought to "encourage the destabilisation" of the communist-run island, in an echo of Cold-War era tensions.

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