Cuba protests: Thousands rally in Havana against government amid economic crisis

ITV News Correspondent Robert Moore reports on the huge protests in Cuba which has shocked the government

Thousands of Cubans have marched on Havana’s Malecon promenade to protest food shortages and high prices, in one of the biggest anti-government demonstrations in memory.

Many young people took part in the afternoon protest in the capital, which saw at least 20 people taken away in police cars or by individuals in civilian clothes, according to reports.

The demonstration grew to a few thousand near Galeano Avenue, as the marchers pressed on amid tear gas barrages.

Although many people tried to take out their mobile phones and broadcast the scenes live, Cuban authorities shut down the country's internet service throughout the afternoon.

The protests in Cuba and the problems in the wider Caribbean and Latin America have caught the Biden administration off guard

One protester told The Associated Press: “We are fed up with the queues, the shortages. That’s why I’m here.”

Police detain an anti-government demonstrator during the protest Credit: Ramon Espinosa/AP

Cuba is experiencing its worst economic crisis in decades, along with a resurgence in Covid cases, as it suffers the effects of US sanctions imposed by the Trump administration.

Julie Chung, an official in the Biden administration who is the acting assistant secretary for state for Western Hemisphere affairs, tweeted support for Sunday’s demonstrations.

Cuba’s director general for US affairs, Carlos de Cossio, dismissed her remarks in his own tweet, saying: “US State Department and its officials, involved to their necks in promoting social and political instability in #Cuba, should avoid expressing hypocritical concern for a situation they have been betting on.

“Cuba is and will continue to be a peaceful country, contrary to the US.”

People standing on many balconies along the central artery in the Centro Habana neighbourhood applauded the protesters passing by, with others joining in the march.

About two-and-a-half hours into the march, some protesters pulled up cobblestones and threw them at police, at which point officers began arresting people and the marchers dispersed.

Plainclothes police detain an anti-government protester during a protest in Havana, Cuba, Credit: AP

About 300 people close to the government then arrived with a large Cuban flag shouting slogans in favour of the late President Fidel Castro and the Cuban revolution.

Some people from the group assaulted an AP video journalist, disabling his camera, while an AP photojournalist was injured by the police.

Demonstrations were also held elsewhere on the island, including the small town of San Antonio de los Banos, where people protested power outages.