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US rejects Cuba claim of fomenting protests

March 18, 2024

Washington has said it was not involved in recent — rare — protests in Cuba. Havana summoned the top US ambassador on the island over the incident.

A vintage car passes by the US Embassy in Havana, Cuba, June 15, 2022. Picture taken on June 15, 2022
The head of the US embassy in Havana was summoned over a statement following Sunday's protestsImage: Alexandre Meneghini/REUTERS

The US has called accusations that it was behind a recent spate of protests in Cuba "absurd."

"The United States is not behind these protests in Cuba and the accusation of that is absurd," State Department spokesman Vedant Patel told reporters on Monday, adding that the unrest "was a reflection of the dire situation on the island."

Cuba's Foreign Ministry summoned Washington's top diplomat on the island, Benjamin Ziff, earlier on Monday.

The ministry said the US was unable to uphold "minimal standards of decency and honesty," citing social media posts shared by the US embassy immediately after Sunday's protests.

Why are Cubans protesting?

People joined protests in several cities and towns across the Caribbean island, including Santiago de Cuba, the country's second-largest city.

The demonstrations — which are a rare occurrence in the socialist country — were sparked by anger over hourslong blackouts and food shortages.

The country has been hit by blackouts since the beginning of the month while maintenance work is being carried out on the Antonio Guiteras thermoelectric plant.

But Cuba is also facing a major economic crisis, made worse by decades of sanctions imposed by the US.

Cuba ends subsidies amid lack of foreign currency

While the protests appeared to have subsided by Monday, the government acknowledged that power cuts would continue, with capacity only able to fulfill around two-thirds of the island's energy demands.

Cuba angered by 'slanderous messages' from US government  

The US response to the protests that offended officials in Havana appeared in a message on X, formerly Twitter. It called for the Cuban government to "respect the human rights of the protestors and address the legitimate needs of the Cuban people."

On Monday, Deputy Foreign Minister Carlos Fernandez de Cossio expressed to Ziff Havana's "firm rejection of the interfering conduct and slanderous messages of the US government and its embassy" about Cuban "internal affairs."

Cuban President Miguel Diez-Canal also lashed out on X, saying: "Mediocre politicians and networked terrorists lined up from South Florida to heat up the streets of Cuba with interventionist messages and calls for chaos. They were left wanting."

The historic tensions between Havana and Washington date back to the Cuban revolution and the subsequent US attempts to oust the socialist government that had allied with the US's Cold War arch-rival, the Soviet Union.

ab/wd (AFP, Reuters)