April 23, 2021

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Cuban protesters demand US lift trade embargo, sanctions

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Hundreds join caravan in capital Havana to pressure US President Joe Biden to lift economic curbs on Cuba.

Hundreds of Cubans joined a protest caravan on Sunday along the seaside road in the capital, Havana, to demand an end to the longstanding United States trade embargo against the country.

Waving Cuban flags, the protesters – who participated in the rally in cars and on bikes and motorcycles – shouted “down with the blockade” as they passed the US embassy.

The caravan was one of several actions held this weekend in more than 50 cities around the world aiming to put pressure on US President Joe Biden to lift the embargo and reverse other harsh economic measures imposed by his predecessor, Donald Trump.

“We are here for the end of the blockade, for the end of the sanctions,” protester Felix Moya told the Reuters news agency.

The Cuban government supported the demonstration, with Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez Parrilla telling reporters the blockade has been “harmful, illegal, immoral [and] criminal” and that it must be lifted.

“Summoned by our own feelings of rejection at the #blockade that tries to suffocate us as people, hundreds of citizens from the capital, threw themselves on the boardwalk this morning in an enthusiastic caravan,” Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel also tweeted.

People with Cuban flags ride at the seafront during a motorcade protest against the US trade embargo on Cuba, in Havana, Cuba, on March 28 [Alexandre Meneghini/Reuters]

Trump had pursued a hardline stance against Cuba, imposing sanctions on Cuba’s interior ministry and designating the country as a “state sponsor of terrorism” in the final weeks of his presidency.

Then-US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the US was designating Cuba “for repeatedly providing support for acts of international terrorism in granting safe harbour to terrorists” – a charge rejected by Havana.

During his presidential campaign last year, Biden promised to reverse Trump policies that he said had “inflicted harm on the Cuban people and done nothing to advance democracy and human rights”.

The Biden administration said in January that it would review US policies towards Cuba.

Biden served as vice president under former President Barack Obama when the US and Cuba restored diplomatic relations in 2015 after more than 50 years.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said this month that “a Cuba policy shift is not currently among President Biden’s top priorities”, however.

“But we are committed to making human rights a core pillar of our US policy and we are committed to carefully reviewing policy decisions made in the prior administration, including the decision to designate Cuba as a state sponsor of terrorism,” she told reporters.

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