(Bloomberg) – Cuba’s communist rulers said they will ease restrictions on the importation of food and medicine and vowed to “learn” from the unusual mass protests over the weekend.
The government will temporarily lift limits and tariffs on food, hygiene items such as shampoo and soap, and medicines that travelers bring to the island, Prime Minister Manuel Marrero said Wednesday at an event broadcast on local television. From now until December 31, 2021, the only limits will be airline taxes, he said.
The concession is designed to help alleviate shortages that sparked the riots, in which thousands of people took to the streets to demand freedom and food, amid ongoing blackouts and skyrocketing inflation. The communist island’s economy contracted 11% last year in the wake of the pandemic, the worst performance since the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Many Cubans depend on friends and family abroad, especially in the United States, to bring them basic products that are difficult to obtain at home. The government has for decades blamed the US trade embargo for the shortage, but it also imposes limits or taxes on the items that Cubans can enter the country.
During the same televised event, the president, Miguel Díaz-Canel, recognized the deficiencies of the regime that has been standing for 62 years now.
“We have to extract experience from these riots and critically analyze our problems to avoid their recurrence,” he said, according to the state media Cuba Debate.
He also indicated that the discontent of some people was legitimate, because they have unfulfilled aspirations that have not always received adequate attention.
The protests triggered a crackdown by the authorities and a greater police presence in some areas. US-based Human Rights Watch, citing Cuban activists, says more than 200 people are detained or missing after the protests.
In addition, the government has been limiting internet access on the island. NetBlocker, a privately run data monitoring company, said that many social media sites, including Facebook and WhatsApp, have been blocked since Sunday. “Real-time internet metrics confirm that access to YouTube is now limited as well,” the group wrote on Twitter Thursday morning.
Díaz-Canel said there were almost no protests on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Nota Original:Cuba Eases Food and Drug Import Restrictions After Mass Protests
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