Thousands of Cubans took to the streets in Havana and other parts of Cuba on Sunday, July 11, to protest food shortages amid the coronavirus crisis.

The protest drew a large number of young people to the largest anti-government protest in decades.

Hundreds of citizens chanted anti-government slogans and demanded everything from coronavirus vaccines to the abolition of daily blackouts.

The protesters chanted “Freedom,” “Enough,” and “Unite.”

Also, they yelled, “We are not afraid!”

The country’s president called on “revolutionary” citizens to counter the protesters.

“We are calling on all the revolutionaries in the country, all the Communists, to hit the streets wherever there is an effort to produce these provocations,” President Diaz-Canel said, according to Reuters.

Special forces jeeps with machine guns mounted on the back were seen throughout the capital, and the police presence was heavy even after most protesters had gone home by the 9 p.m curfew imposed due to the pandemic.

As a result of U.S sanctions imposed by the Trump administration, Cuba is experiencing its most significant economic crisis in decades, as well as a rise of coronavirus outbreaks.

“They are protesting the crisis, that there is no food or medicine, that you have to buy everything at the foreign currency stores, and on and on the list goes,” resident Claudia Perez said, reported Reuters.

Miranda Lazara, a 53-year-old dance instructor, was among the tens of thousands of demonstrators that marched through Havana.

“We are going through really difficult times,”

“We need a change of system.”

Last year, the GDP shrank by 10.9%, and it shrank by 2% in June 2021. Cubans have been forced to line up for hours to get necessities throughout the pandemic because of the resultant cash scarcity.

Hospitals in the worst-hit areas of the province have been overburdened.

The advent of the Delta strain has increased cases, with health officials reporting a total of 6,923 infections and 47 deaths on Sunday, more than double the previous week’s total.

Tear gas was used, witnesses told the Post, and dozens of protestors were detained. Multiple people were injured.

“The people came out to express themselves freely, and they are repressing and beating them,” Rev. Jorge Luis Gil, a Roman Catholic priest, said while standing at a street corner in Centro Habana.

Jake Sullivan, the White House national security adviser, took to Twitter to say the “U.S. supports freedom of expression and assembly across Cuba, and would strongly condemn any violence or targeting of peaceful protesters who are exercising their universal rights.”

Senator Ted Cruz, the son of a Cuban immigrant, expressed his support for the demonstrators on Twitter on Sunday, reported Fox News.

“It has brutalized & denied freedom to generations of Cubans, and forced my family & so many others to flee,” he tweeted. “The American people stand squarely with the men & women of Cuba and their noble fight for liberty.”

A President Biden administration official expressed support for the protests via Twitter, reported Sun-Sentinel.

“Peaceful protests are growing in #Cuba as the Cuban people exercise their right to peaceful assembly to express concern about rising COVID cases/deaths & medicine shortages. We commend the numerous efforts of the Cuban people mobilizing donations to help neighbors in need,” tweeted Julie Chung, acting assistant secretary for state for Western Hemisphere affairs.

Cuba’s director-general for U.S. affairs, Carlos F. de Cossio, dismissed her remarks in a tweet, “U.S. State Department and its officials, involved to their necks in promoting social and political instability in #Cuba, should avoid expressing hypocritical concern for a situation they have been betting on. Cuba is and will continue to be a peaceful country, contrary to the U.S.”