Cuban-Calgarians watch in fear and sadness as a dire situation unfolds back home

Many have taken to the Calgary streets to raise awareness of the crisis in Cuba, as they struggle to attain information on their family and friends due to government-induced internet outages.

By Krista Sylvester | July 13, 2021 |7:00 am

Cuban-Calgarians nervously watch the protests unfold back home in what has become one of the largest demonstrations in that country's history — all due to the worsening food and economic crisis. A scene from a protest in London earlier this year.

Photo: // Shutterstock

Editor’s note: The names of the local interviewees were changed to protect their identities for fear of retribution.

“Enough is enough.”

Those are the words echoed by some Cuban-Calgarians who are watching with horror as thousands of Cubans take to the streets back home in one of the country’s largest demonstrations in modern history.

Thousands of Cubans marched across Cuba on Sunday to protest food shortages and high prices as the pandemic rages on in that country.

Em and Al have lived in Calgary for almost 20 years. They say the situation in Cuba is the most dire it’s ever been and they fear for their families back home who are living in terrible conditions.

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“The economic crisis is worse now … it’s a mess. I called my mom, she said they don’t have food, the government blacked out the internet. On top of that, you have no right to peacefully protest. It’s all too much,” Em told Calgary Citizen.

“It’s a huge concern because they go after people who may have protested, they oppress them. Things are getting worse and worse all the time,” explains Al.

“I don’t know how it got to this point. Enough is enough.”

Let’s rewind — what’s happening in Cuba right now?

Thousands of people took to the streets of Havana and other Cuban cities in some of the largest displays of anti-government sentiment in decades. The people are decrying the country’s food instability, its economy, the rising food prices, and its response to the pandemic.

According to CNN, demonstrators complained about a lack of freedom and the worsening economic situation during the rare protests. Many chanted “freedom” and called for President Miguel Díaz-Canel to step down.  

Protestors are demanding better access to food and medicine amid the worsening COVID pandemic. There were almost 7,000 new cases reported Monday, adding to the country’s already more than 32,000 active cases.

Reports say multiple protesters were arrested by police, who used tear gas to break up some demonstrations. In some cases, the protestors are being attacked by police.

Attempts by protestors to broadcast the live events happening in that country were shut down when Cuban authorities turned off internet service.

On Monday, US President Joe Biden expressed support for the Cuban people, calling on the Cuban government to “hear their people and serve their needs.”

What’s the situation in Calgary?

Here in Calgary, dozens of people took to the steps of City Hall on Sunday to stand in solidarity with those in Cuba where many of their family members still live.

Many Cuban-Calgarians are glued to social media and television, hoping to find information about their friends and family, but it’s a challenge as government-induced internet outages are disrupting the flow of communication in and out of the embattled country.  

As they watch on in fear and sadness, Em and Al hope these protests are a turning point for their home country, but they are facing the fear of the unknown and are scared for their friends and family.

“I don’t know what’s going to happen. I know they use force and violence to intimidate them. They don’t have food. At this point I worry for my family, my friends, I don’t know what’s going to happen,” Em adds.

“I just worry. I don’t even know what to say. It’s heartbreaking.”

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Krista Sylvester

Reporter at Calgary Citizen

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