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Cuban-Americans in Miami, Florida gather to support the protests of their compatriots in Cuba. Photo: EPA-EFE

Cuba summons top US diplomat, accuses US of stoking protests

  • US urges Cuban government to ‘respect the human rights of the protesters’, prompting summons of US charge d’affaires
  • On Sunday, Cubans staged rare street protests at several locations across island, over shortages of electricity, fuel and food

Cuba’s foreign ministry said it had summoned the top US diplomat on the island to a meeting following protests on Sunday, accusing the US embassy in Havana of seeking to stoke a broader anti-government uprising and meddling in Cuba’s internal affairs.

Rallies in protest of oppressive, hours-long blackouts and food shortages erupted in at least five locations across the island on Sunday, including Cuba’s second largest city Santiago, state-run media said.

The United States government said on X, formerly Twitter, late on Sunday that it was monitoring the protests and encouraged the Cuban government to “respect the human rights of the protesters and address the legitimate needs of the Cuban people”.

Those comments prompted Cuba’s foreign ministry to call charge d’affaires Benjamin Ziff to a meeting with deputy foreign minister Carlos Fernandez de Cossio, “who formally conveyed his firm rejection of the government’s interventionist behaviour and slanderous messages”, a statement from the ministry said.

The US embassy in Havana, Cuba. Photo: AFP

A US State Department spokesman said it was “absurd” to suggest Washington was behind the protests.

The latest tiff between the two long-time foes underscores the still frosty relationship between Cuba and the United States, which has barely improved since Democratic US President Joe Biden took office in 2021.

Cuba’s foreign ministry on Monday repeated the communist-run government’s long-standing accusation that a Cold War-era US embargo and other sanctions were seeking to impoverish Cubans and destabilise the country.

Sunday’s protests, which were described as “respectful” by Cuban officials, marked the largest single night of confirmed protests since October 2022, when power across the island was cut for nearly a week in the wake of Hurricane Ian.

Protests are rare in Cuba, a country where authorities take a dim view of dissent.

Cuba’s state-run newscast early on Monday showed posts from social media – including some from US members of Congress – about the demonstrations, and accused US-based agitators of seeking to confuse the situation or stoke anger by suggesting government repression or more widespread protests than was actually the case.

Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel also pointed a finger at Washington.

“Mediocre politicians and networked terrorists lined up from South Florida to heat up the streets of #Cuba with interventionist messages and calls for chaos. They were left wanting,” Diaz-Canel said on X.

The Caribbean island nation appeared quiet on Monday, although the government said it expected blackouts to remain acute through the week, with electricity generation meeting only around two-thirds of demand.