Thousands of protesters march in Cuba's streets

Thousands of Cubans on Sunday took to the streets over a worsening economy, a display of civil unrest rarely seen in the Communist-ruled island nation.

Demonstrators in the capital city, Havana, chanted “freedom,” amid heavy police presence.

Many called for better access to vaccines, while others blamed the government for daily blackouts.

One protester said he was struggling to make ends meet in an economy plagued by sanctions and the global health crisis.

"We are here because of the repression against the people, they are starving us to death. Havana is collapsing. We have no house, we have nothing, but they have money to build hotels and they have us starving."

Protests broke out in San Antonio de los Banos, which borders Havana and later spread hundreds of miles east to Santiago de Cuba.

In a televised speech to the nation, President and head of the Communist Party, Miguel Diaz-Canel blamed unrest on foreign influence.

He encouraged patriots to confront anti-government protesters.

"We will not allow any counterrevolutionaries influenced by the government of the United States… allowing themselves to be carried away by all these strategies of ideological subversion to provoke destabilization in our country. There will be a revolutionary response. We call upon all the revolutionaries of the country, all the communists, to take to the streets to any of the places where these provocations are going to take place. Today, from now on, and in the following days."

Cuba’s economy contracted nearly 11 percent last year and 2 percent in 2021 so far.

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