U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken urged Cuba’s government to respect the voices of protesters one year after the largest demonstration on the island in decades.
“One year after the July 11 demonstrations in Cuba, we recognize the determination and courage of the Cuban people in their long struggle for democracy,” Blinken said in a post on Twitter.
“The United States stands with the Cuban people, and we urge the Cuban regime to respect their voices,” he added.
Protesters took to the streets in Cuba’s capital, Havana, as well as other parts of the country July 11 and 12, 2021, voicing their anger about long lines for food, cuts in electricity, and trouble with the supply of medicine amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The demonstrators chanted slogans calling for freedom, liberty and unity until police eventually broke up the rallies.
Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel said following the protests in a nationally broadcast address that the social unrest was the result of “a policy of economic suppression” by the United States.
Authorities in Cuba sentenced hundreds of people who participated in the protests to jail.
On Saturday, the U.S. State Department announced visa restrictions against 28 Cuban officials that it said were implicated in the crackdown on last year’s protests.
The State Department said the officials helped to set the policies that it said led to unjust detentions and decadeslong prison sentences for protesters.
Cuba has been under communist rule since 1959 when Fidel Castro’s revolution forced dictator Fulgencio Batista to flee the island.
The United States proclaimed an embargo on trade with Cuba in 1962. The embargo relaxed somewhat in the year 2000, when Congress passed a law allowing American businesses to sell food and “humanitarian goods,” including medicine, to Cuba. In January 2021, outgoing President Donald Trump hit Cuba with new sanctions in the final days of his administration, redesignating the country as a “state sponsor of terrorism.”
Some information in this report came from The Associated Press and Reuters.