The Cuban-Caymanian community in Cayman is taking to the streets in support of the people of Cuba, who, in a rare display of protest, have been demonstrating in their thousands against acute shortages of food and medicine as well as rising inflation amid the pandemic.
At the waterfront in downtown George Town on Wednesday, 14 July, about 50 people gathered, holding signs with messages such as ‘Freedom for Cuba’ and ‘SOS Cuba’. Similar demonstrations in support of the Cuban protests have been held in cities around the world throughout the week.
George Ebanks, one of the organisers of the demonstration in George Town, said Cuban-Caymanians were “standing in solidarity with the people of Cuba”.
“The people of Cuba have had enough of the dictatorship of the Castro regime, and now we want freedom for our people,” he said. “We are standing here, in the Cayman Islands, as a free country, as free citizens, wanting the same rights and justices for the people in Cuba.”
He added, “It is their inalienable right, under human justice, to have freedom – freedom from persecution, freedom from want… People who have been searching for freedom have been assassinated by the Cuban regime and their soldiers and their military.”
Protests are unusual in Cuba, where dissenters and critics of the government face harsh punishments.
Cuba’s President Miguel Díaz-Canel, who succeeded Raul Castro in 2019, has called for his supporters to “fight” the protesters. In a televised broadcast, he described the protesters as mercenaries hired by the US to destabilise the country.
According to media reports, the anti-government protests on Sunday, 11 July, began with a demonstration in the city of San Antonio de los Baños, located southwest of Havana, but soon spread throughout the island. Reuters news agency reported that dozens of demonstrators had been arrested.
However, in what appears to be a small concession to the protesters’ demands, the Cuban government announced on 14 July that it was temporarily lifting restrictions on the amount of food and medicine travellers could bring into the country.
In Cayman, Ebanks urged the US government as well as other governments around the world to support the human rights of Cuban citizens. He also called on the local community to request the Cayman Islands government “speak in solidarity with the Cuban people”.
Ebanks said demonstrations in Cayman calling for a free democracy in Cuba would continue, and invited anyone who supported freedom to join in. The group said it was planning another demonstration in the coming days, and is awaiting permission from the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service.
In Parliament on Wednesday, Speaker of the House McKeeva Bush said Cayman needed to carefully observe the “unprecedented situation” in Cuba, adding that these islands have “many very strong familial links and connections there”.
“History has taught us that similar uprisings have had a direct and severe impact on our community here,” he said. “Let us remember the people of Cuba in our prayers, as they face not just that political matter, but the savage matters of COVID.”
The Speaker said a drive for assistance had been launched locally for the “thousands of people in need” in Cuba. “We hope to have the cooperation of the Cuban government in getting supplies directly to the people that are in need thereof.”
- Additional reporting by Norma Connolly