The Cuban government announced that passengers arriving in Cuba can bring food, medicine and other necessities into the country without paying customs fees. This is the first obvious concession after several days of rare protests in this Caribbean island country.
On Wednesday night, Prime Minister Manuel Marrero and President Miguel Diaz-Canel announced the news in a televised speech. In the previous days, demonstrators took to the streets for the first time.
When talking about lifting customs restrictions on food, medicines and sanitary products, Marrero said, “This is a request made by many travelers, and it is necessary to make this decision.”
Given that there are currently few flights into Cuba, it is not clear how much direct impact this move will have. Cuba is experiencing its worst outbreak since the beginning of the pandemic.
According to Cuban law, passengers arriving in the country can carry up to 10 kilograms (22 pounds) of medicines for tax exemption. They can also bring a limited number of food and personal hygiene products into the country, but they must pay customs duties.
Marrero said that these restrictions and tariffs will be lifted from Monday.
The country’s anger has increased due to shortages of basic commodities, power outages, restrictions on civil liberties, and the government’s response to the epidemic that have led to a surge in the number of infected people.
During the pandemic under the leadership of former President Donald Trump, the United States tightened decades-long trade embargoes, thereby exacerbating Cuba’s difficulties. These policies are still under review by the administration of President Joe Biden. .
Cuban leaders blamed the protests on US-funded “counter-revolutionaries” and social media campaigns that used the Washington embargo to create a terrible situation.
Pro-government demonstrations also took place during the turmoil.
On the other hand, Diaz-Canel again blamed the unrest on the United States on Wednesday, but admitted for the first time that the government’s shortcomings played a role in this.
Diaz-Canel said, “We must learn from the riots,” he added, “We must also critically analyze our problems in order to take action to overcome these problems and avoid their recurrence. “
Diaz-Canel called for “peace, harmony and respect among Cubans” and added, “In addition, it may be necessary to apologize to those who are confused and abused in the chaos caused by such incidents. “
According to Cubalex, an exiled human rights organization, more than 200 people have been detained during or after the protest, and only a few have been released so far.
Cuban officials-accusing the protesters of vandalism and robbery-have not released official figures for the number of arrests, but admitted that one person died.
Interior Ministry officials said on Wednesday that some detainees will be pursued for crimes such as incitement to violence, contempt, robbery and destruction of public property, and that these crimes will be sentenced to long prison sentences.
At the same time, although access to social media and messaging services is still restricted, activists said that intermittent Internet outages aimed at quelling any further disturbances eased slightly on Wednesday.