A tense calm has descended over Havana Wednesday, as the country of Cuba faces its third day of unprecedented, nationwide protests.
“It’s been very difficult for them to get food, very difficult for them to carry day-to-day life,” said Jose Martino, who was born in Cuba, but later defected to Canada.
The current unrest is triggered by the pandemic, which stripped the island of its $3 billion tourism industry, leaving the country’s people facing crippling food shortages.
Many Cubans are calling for their President Miguel Díaz-Canel to step down, and an end to Cuba’s decades-old Communist regime.
“They’re hungry, there’s no medicine. They need a change,” yelled one woman protesting in the United States.
Other Cuban-Americans are calling on the Biden government to intervene.
“You need to do something!” screamed a woman on a loudspeaker at the White House.
The United States has had an embargo against Cuba in place since 1958. Its current iteration prevents American businesses and businesses with commercial activities from conducting trade with Cuban interests. It is the most enduring trade embargo in modern history.
So far, the Biden government has only expressed support for the Cuban people.
Meanwhile, Canadian Cubans, like Jose Martino, are calling on the Canadian government to help try to find a solution before things get worse.
“I don’t want to see any more blood on people’s faces and getting beat up on the streets of Cuba!” said Martino. “I want the government of Canada to step up and actually make some demands to the government of Cuba.”
The unrest is even seen through Cuban art, like “Patria y Vida“, a positive twist on a common Communist saying that’s become the viral anthem for the protests.
“It’s opposing the very old slogan of ‘motherland or death’. Fidel used to finish every speech with it. So instead of that, it’s a way to look to the future with hope. Let’s not talk about death. Instead, let’s talk about life,” said Martino.
Martino says it’s not only time for American sanctions against Cuba to change, for the Cuban Communist Party to ‘drop the denial’ and start a dialogue with its people.
“How many more people is it going to take, before you call them people, not hooligans or mercenaries?” asked Martino. “They’re people, it’s your people! And I’m really concerned for all of us Cubans and for the future of the country.”
A rally in Victoria to oppose the humanitarian crisis in Cuba is being planned in the coming days.