Russia has warned against any foreign interference in Cuba following the recent anti-government protests in the Caribbean island country.
Maria Zakharova, Russia’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, raised the alarm about “outside interference” in Cuba on Monday after thousands of people took to the streets in several major cities over the weekend to air grievances against President Miguel Diaz-Canel’s government.
“We consider it unacceptable for there to be outside interference in the internal affairs of a sovereign state or any destructive actions that would encourage the destabilization of the situation on the island,” Zakharova said in a statement.
The Russian official did not explain who might be trying to interfere in Cuba’s affairs, but the warning appeared to be directed at the United States as some US officials expressed support for the protests and urged the government in Havana not to target the protesters.
“We are closely following the development of the situation in and around Cuba,” Zakharova said, adding, “We are convinced that Cuban authorities are taking all necessary measures to restore public order in the interests of the country’s citizens and within the framework of the Constitution.”
The anti-government rallies started spontaneously in several cities on Sunday.
Cuba is going through its worst economic crisis in 30 years, with chronic shortages of electricity and food.
Several hundred protesters marched through the capital Havana, chanting, “We want liberty,” with a heavy military and police presence.
“I’m here because of hunger, because there’s no medicine, because of power cuts – because there’s a lack of everything,” said a man in his 40s who attended the rally in central Havana.
Reports said police used tear gas to disperse the crowds; and at least ten people were arrested.
The Cuban president has accused the United States of being responsible for the unrest in his country, with his government blaming the economic woes mainly on US sanctions and the coronavirus pandemic.
Washington has thrown its weight behind the protests in Cuba, with National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan saying on Twitter, “The US 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.”
The United States has maintained a harsh economic, financial and commercial embargo against Cuba for more than 60 years. Numerous resolutions by the United Nations General Assembly have indicated that the blockade is against international law.
Public anger in Cuba has grown recently, driven by long food lines, worsening power shortages for several hours a day and a critical shortage of medicines since the start of the Covid-19 crisis.
The country is experiencing its toughest phase yet of the pandemic.
The Cuban government has reiterated that the US embargo is impeding the country’s ability to purchase equipment and other supplies to deal with COVID-19 and is worsening the pandemic.