Cuba: US calls for release of all protesters after unrest

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  • Coronavirus pandemic

image copyrightReutersimage captionThere has been a heavy security force on the streets of Havana in recent days

The US has called for the release of all peaceful protesters detained in Cuba during recent unrest.

Thousands took to the streets on Sunday in protests over food and medicine shortages, price increases and the government's handling of Covid-19.

Dozens have been arrested nationwide and authorities confirmed on Tuesday that one man had died.

Unauthorised demonstrations are illegal in the country, and anti-government protests are rare.

Cuba has blamed the US and its economic sanctions for the protests and Cuba's wider problems.

At a press briefing on Wednesday, US state department spokesman Ned Price said the US was "deeply concerned" about the situation and the Cuban government's response.

"We call for calm and we condemn any violence against those protesting peacefully, and we equally call on the Cuban Government to release anyone detained for peaceful protest," he said.

It comes amid a US policy review on Cuba. White House press secretary Jen Psaki said on Wednesday that the recent protests will "obviously have an impact on how we proceed".

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On Wednesday AFP news agency journalists reported that Cuban authorities had restored access to the internet after three days of disruption. Some messaging and social media platforms reportedly remained blocked on 3G and 4G however, including Facebook, WhatsApp and Twitter.

Mobile internet was only introduced in Cuba in the last few years and allowed people to organise and spread word of the recent demonstrations.

Andrea Lopez, a resident of the capital Havana, told Reuters news agency she has not been able to get online for days, unable to speak to her husband in Mexico.

"On the first days they cut the calls, they cut everything," she said. "All of this is how [the government] want it."

media captionThousands took to the streets in protest over the government's handling of coronavirus and the economy

Streets in Havana were reportedly calmer on Wednesday, although there was a heavy security presence.

Arrests seem to have continued in the country in recent days. Cuban YouTuber Dina Stars was conducting an interview for a Spanish broadcaster on Tuesday when she told the channel that security forces had come to take her away. She later posted about it on Instagram.

And Reuters obtained footage from Tuesday which it said was of a young man in the southeastern town of Gibara being arrested.

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