Cuban president urges country’s ‘revolutionary’ citizens to counter protesters

Thousands of Cubans took to the streets in Havana to lash out at the worsening conditions in the country under the communist regime—the biggest protest in decades—prompting the country’s president to call on "revolutionary" citizens to counter the protesters.

President Miguel Diaz-Canel, who also heads the Communist Party, addressed the country and blamed the U.S. for stoking the anger, according to the Washington Post. 

"The order to fight has been given - into the street, revolutionaries!" he said in an address, according to the BBC.

Cuba is going through its worst economic crisis in decades, along with a resurgence of coronavirus cases, as it suffers the consequences of U.S. sanctions imposed by the Trump administration. The country also reported 7,000 daily COVID-19 infections on Sunday and 47 deaths.

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Jake Sullivan, the White House national security adviser, took to Twitter to say the "U.S. supports freedom of expression and assembly across Cuba, and would strongly condemn any violence or targeting of peaceful protesters who are exercising their universal rights." 

People take part in a demonstration to support the government of the Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel in Havana, on July 11, 2021. - Thousands of Cubans took part in rare protests Sunday against the communist government, marching through a town chan

People demonstrate, some holding placards reading "Homeland and Life" and with the Cuban national flag, during a protest against the Cuban government in Miami on July 11, 2021. - Thousands of Cubans across the country took part in rare protests July

Many of the protesters in the town of San Antonio de Los Banos were young and hurled insults at Diaz-Canel. They shouted that they are "not afraid."

Sen. Ted Cruz, the son of a Cuban immigrant, took to Twitter on Sunday in support of the thousands of protesters.

Cruz reposted a video that claimed to show dozens in front of the Communist Party Headquarters and said the current regime will be "consigned to the dustbin of history."

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"It has brutalized & denied freedom to generations of Cubans, and forced my family & so many others to flee," he tweeted. "The American people stand squarely with the men & women of Cuba and their noble fight for liberty."

In 2009, a year after Raul Castro formally replaced Fidel as Cuba’s president, Díaz-Canel became minister of higher education. In 2012 he rose to one of Cuba’s vice presidencies and soon thereafter was named first vice president.

"We are calling on all the revolutionaries in the country, all the Communists, to hit the streets wherever there is an effort to produce these provocations," Diaz-Canel said, according to Reuters.

Witnesses told the Post that tear gas was deployed and dozens of protesters were detained. The paper said there were multiple people wounded.

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The Associated Press contributed to this report