US president Joe Biden known as on Cuba’s communist authorities to answer protesters who staged the island’s greatest demonstrations in many years, saying that they had issued a “clarion name for freedom”.

Hundreds of individuals took to the streets in a number of cities throughout Cuba on Sunday to voice anger over shortages of meals and medication and to protest towards coronavirus restrictions, in a uncommon manifestation of dissent in a rustic below one-party rule because the 1959 revolution.

Biden mentioned in an announcement on Monday that the Cuban authorities ought to give precedence to assembly the folks’s wants “slightly than enriching themselves”.

“We stand with the Cuban folks and their clarion name for freedom and aid from the tragic grip of the pandemic and from the many years of repression and financial struggling to which they’ve been subjected by Cuba’s authoritarian regime”.

Shortly earlier than Biden made his attraction, Cuban chief Miguel Díaz-Canel made his second emergency televised tackle in two days, blaming US sanctions for the meals and vitality shortages plaguing the nation and giving no signal he would make concessions.

Díaz-Canel mentioned early on Monday that there had been some looting and {that a} police automotive was overturned however blamed foreign-led social media campaigns for inciting the unrest and claimed his authorities was doing all it may to assist the inhabitants.

“It’s brutal, merciless and inhuman {that a} second has been chosen [for unrest] through which the nation goes by way of the worst situation of the pandemic,” he mentioned. “They [the US and its allies] have put at risk the lives and the efforts of 1000’s of Cubans to manage outbreaks of Covid-19.”

Andrés Manuel López Obrador, Mexico’s populist leftwing president, mentioned the US ought to finish its decades-old embargo on Cuba if it wished to assist. He additionally expressed his solidarity with the Cuban folks, saying Mexico stood prepared to assist with meals and medical provides if wanted.

Sunday’s protests appeared to have begun in San Antonio, the place residents chanted anti-government slogans and demanded a halt to coronavirus restrictions and energy cuts. Díaz-Canel visited the city and later alleged that protesters had been manipulated by US-led social media campaigns.

Riot police used pepper spray and batons towards a number of the protesters in Havana however didn’t confront most of them instantly. Plainclothes police made some arrests and witnesses noticed particular forces jeeps with mounted machine weapons deployed within the streets. There have been no experiences of great violence.

Protests have been additionally reported within the metropolis of Palma Soriano within the east of the nation near Santiago in addition to in San Antonio de los Baños to the south of Havana, the place crowds shouted: “Down with the dictatorship!” In Matanzas, movies circulating on social media confirmed demonstrators overturning automobiles.

In Havana, some protesters sporting face masks mentioned they have been uninterested in the communist system, of the costly greenback shops which can be used to promote scarce items and of the shortage of medicines. Social media was awash with movies of the demonstrations.

There have been experiences of widespread web outages on the island within the aftermath of the protests.

Members of the massive Cuban-American group in Miami, Florida, got here on to the streets in a present of assist for the protests and the state’s Republican governor Ron DeSantis gave them his backing. A number of members of US Congress additionally expressed assist for the Cuban protesters, together with Marco Rubio, the Republican senator from Florida who’s of Cuban descent.

Cuba is dealing with its worst financial disaster because the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union, which was its primary backer. Coronavirus has devastated revenues from tourism, the principle export earner, and tighter US sanctions imposed by former president Donald Trump have choked the financial system. Hopes that Biden’s administration would ease sanctions haven’t materialised.

The Díaz-Canel authorities tried to introduce restricted financial reforms at first of the yr, devaluing the peso sharply and permitting extra freedom for the private sector, however the efforts have had little impact amid a deep recession. Meals and gasoline shortages have worsened and lots of Cubans spend hours queueing for primary requirements.

In April, Raúl Castro stepped down as head of the communist occasion on the age of 89, the primary time because the 1959 revolution, led by his brother Fidel, {that a} Castro had not been in cost.

The rigorously choreographed transition got here months after a protest by the San Isidro collective of artists towards the shortage of freedoms on the island.

A rap song written this year by dissident musicians from the motion subverted the hallowed Cuban revolutionary slogan “Patria o Muerte” (“Fatherland or Dying”), changing it with “Patria y Vida” (“Fatherland and Life”) — a phrase shouted on Sunday by a number of the protesters.