Although she did not take part in the historic protests that rocked the entire island of Cuba on Sunday, Caridad Montes, 50, says she understands why they took place.
“It’s very simple,” said Montes, a Havana resident. “They are tired of the hardships and want changes for the better.”
Cuba has been grappling with acute shortages of food and medicine throughout the pandemic. People make lines for blocks to buy whatever they can find at stores. Inflation and blackouts during the tropical summer heat have aggravated the situation.
Cuba’s government blames the economic crisis squarely on the decades-old U.S. trade embargo on Cuba, which was tightened by the Trump administration, as well as on the fallout from the Covid-19 pandemic. In a speech Monday, President Miguel Díaz-Canel said the U.S. “politics of economic asphyxiation” was having a “cumulative effect” on Cuba.
But the embargo is not solely to blame for Cuba’s woes. One of the most important factors that has led to years of economic stagnation is the country’s Soviet-style, centrally planned economy and its hesitation to adopt market-oriented reforms that other remaining communist countries have taken.