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Cubans rally against government as economy struggles

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Thousands of Cubans have taken part in the island’s largest anti-communist protests in decades.

“Down with the dictatorship!” they sang as they marched through towns including Havana, Cuba’s capital.

On social media, images appeared to show security personnel detaining and assaulting some of the demonstrators.

The collapse of the economy, as well as limits on civil liberties and the government’s handling of the pandemic, have enraged Cubans.

After Cuba reported roughly 7,000 daily cases and 47 deaths on Sunday, the protesters demanded a speedier coronavirus immunization program.

Cuba’s primarily state-controlled economy dropped by 11% last year, its steepest drop in over three decades. The pandemic and US sanctions wreaked havoc on the country.

Thousands of pro-government supporters also took to the streets after the president went on television to urge them to defend the revolution – referring to the 1959 uprising which ushered in decades of Communist rule.

President Miguel Díaz-Canel said the protests were a provocation by mercenaries hired by the US to destabilise the country.

“The order to fight has been given – into the street, revolutionaries!” he said in an address on TV.

The top US diplomat for Latin America, Julie Chung, tweeted: “We are deeply concerned by ‘calls to combat’ in Cuba.”

“We stand by the Cuban people’s right for peaceful assembly. We call for calm and condemn any violence.”

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