Cuban government lifts restrictions on importing food and medicine under concession to protesters

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Top line

The Cuban government on Wednesday announced it would temporarily lift restrictions on the amount of food and medicine incoming travelers could bring into the country, a move that appears to be a minor concession to demands from protesters who have taken to the streets for more. early this week.

Highlights

The lifting of the restrictions will allow travelers to bring in unlimited food, medicine and hygiene products without having to pay customs duties.

In one televised speech Cuban Prime Minister Manuel Marrero on Wednesday said the measures would come into effect on Monday and remain in place until the end of the year.

Marrero said he expects the move to have a bigger impact on people’s lives after normal air travel resumes, as the Cuban government has currently limited the number of inbound flights due to the pandemic of Covid-19.

Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel also appeared on the show, but adopted a less confrontational tone compared to earlier and said the government needs to critically analyze the protests.

Diaz-Canel said the protesters could be classified into three groups and claimed that some of them were counter-revolutionary mercenaries, some were criminals, but acknowledged that there were also people with frustrations ” legitimate ”whose concerns have not been properly addressed by state institutions.

Chief critic

Cuban journalist and government critic Yoani Sanchez rejected the measure and suggested it was not enough to allay protesters’ concerns. It tweeted: “We don’t want crumbs, we want freedom and we want it now. The streets have spoken. We are not afraid. “

Key context

Thousands of Cubans took to the streets on Sunday to protest against shortages of food and essential medicines, restriction of freedom and the government’s handling of the Covid-19 pandemic. The protests that erupted in several cities were the largest public uprising the communist-led state has seen in decades. The Cuban government decided to quell the protests and called on its supporters to take to the streets in response. Cuban leaders have claimed that US-funded “counterrevolutionaries” were behind the protests and said Cuba’s current hardship was caused by Washington’s strict sanctions against the island nation. The government’s response, however, was criticized by several prominent Cubans, including salsa group Los Van Van to jazz pianist Chucho Valdes, who urged Cuban leaders to listen to the protesters instead of fighting them.

Further reading

Cuba lifts customs restrictions on food and medicine after protests (Reuters)

Food shortages and economic problems fueled by pandemic in Cuba spark biggest protest in decades (Forbes)

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