Twitter’s moderators were accused of minimizing the impact of the thousands of demonstrators who took to the streets against the Cuban communist regime over the weekend.
“People are helping to spread awareness on the impact of COVID-19 in Cuba as cases hit an all-time high in the country,” Twitter said as a description of the protests on Sunday night and Monday morning.
Several Republican leaders accused Twitter of attempting to mischaracterize the protests as being about COVID-19 rather than them being against the communist regime, highlighting videos of Cuban demonstrators holding American flags, chanting “freedom,” and calling for the end of the regime and its leader Miguel Diaz-Canel, who is also head of the Cuban Communist Party.
Thousands took to the streets in various parts of Havana and other cities and shouted “Diaz-Canel step down” and shouted “repressors” at security forces who were deployed.
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) said Twitter’s description is not unexpected.
“Surreal but not surprising,” Rubio wrote on the platform. Twitter, he added, “says this is all about COVID ‘awareness’ in #Cuba. Ignores this is really about how socialism is a disaster & always leads to tyranny, despair and suffering.”
“Protests in #Cuba aren’t simply about ‘shortages,'” the senator added. “Socialism promises guaranteed food, medicine & income if you give up your freedom When, as always, it fails to deliver you don’t get your freedom back That’s why the protestors are chanting ‘Libertad.'”
Human Rights Watch’s Jose Miguel Vivanco told the Washington Post that the protests are “pretty massive” and likely encompass a number of issues.
“My sense is that this is a combination of social unrest based on a lack of freedoms, and COVID, and economic conditions. The lack of access to electricity. The blackouts. … People are screaming for freedom,” he told the paper.
It comes as Cuba’s economy contracted 10.9 percent last year, and 2 percent through June of 2021. The resulting cash crunch has spawned shortages that have forced Cubans to queue for hours for basic goods throughout the pandemic.
On Monday morning, Diaz-Canel said the protesters were “vulgar criminals” who he claimed had attacked police and looted stores. A day before that, he called on “all the revolutionaries in the country, all the Communists, to hit the streets wherever there is an effort to produce these provocations.”
Some witnesses said that on Sunday in central Havana, pro-regime groups and police officers clashed with the anti-government demonstrators.
“That’s when things got tense and violent,” Noel Alonso Ginoris, 26, told the Post. “I saw one man very close to me, an older man in a blue pullover. They threw him to the ground, tied his hands and arrested him because he shouted ‘Freedom,'” he added.
The Epoch Times has contacted Twitter for comment.
Reuters contributed to this report.