Cuban President Blames US For Embargo, Stoking Protests

Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel borrowed a page from his predecessor’s playbook and blamed the United States for instigating protests that have broken out in Cuba over food and electricity shortages and for maintaining the embargo against the communist state.

Diaz-Canel spoke to NBC News on the sideline of Havana’s International Informatics Fair and claimed the 66-year-old U.S. embargo is illogical.

“They’re always looking for justifications and turning things around,” Díaz-Canel said. “The most absurd thing is that they have applied a criminal blockade against us for more than 65 years. That is the absurdity.”

The UK Guardian and other news outlets posted video of people taking to the streets in Cuba’s second-largest city of Santiago and Bayama in a rare public show of dissatisfaction with the island’s government. The protests reportedly began Sunday when mothers turned up at a government building complaining that they could not provide for their children. Cuba has been facing food shortages and power cuts, exacerbated by an economic slump and soaring inflation.

In response, the U.S. Embassy in Havana posted on X, formerly Twitter, that “We are aware of reports of peaceful protests in Santiago, Bayamo, Granma, and elsewhere in Cuba, with citizens protesting the lack of food and electricity. We urge the Cuban government to respect the human rights of the protestors and address the legitimate needs of the Cuban people.

When NBC asked about the protests, Díaz-Canel said they were relatively peaceful but were made to look like “serious events.” He said more “severe” protests take place around the world, including in the U.S., that are “violently repressed.”

The Cuban government has blamed the country’s economic woes on the embargo for decades, but no other country currently has similar trade restrictions against Cuba, including Mexico and the other island nations of the Caribbean.

The Guardian reported that the Cuban peso was trading on Monday at 325 to the dollar, against an official rate of 24 (another rate of 120 is used for certain items). Recently, the price of gasoline went up fivefold, and GDP is 10% below its level in 2019. Tourism, which has been seen as a critical source of income for the island, took a major hit during the COVID-19 epidemic.