Cuban Officials Announce Some Policy Changes in Effort to Ease Discontent

Cuban officials announced several policy changes Wednesday in an effort to ease discontent in the country, the Associated Press reported.

The changes are aimed at addressing some of the grievances, such as food and medicine shortages and power outages, voiced by Cuban citizens during mass protests over the last few days.

Prime Minister Manuel Marrero announced that Cuba would be more flexible in customs for Cuban citizens who leave the country and bring back food, medicine and toiletries, which have been in short supply. Officials are looking to increase medicine supplies, while work is being done on the electricity system to enhance stability, the prime minister said.

The directors of state-owned enterprises will be permitted to establish salaries outside of the regulations, Economy Minister Alejandro Gil announced. Additionally, he said that Cuba will deliver rules in the following weeks facilitating the formation of small and medium enterprises.

"We have to gain experience from the disturbances," Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Cane said during televised remarks Wednesday night. "We also have to carry out a critical analysis of our problems in order to act and overcome, and avoid their repetition."

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Cuba Law Enforcement
Cuban officials announced several policy changes Wednesday in an effort to ease discontent in the country. Above, a truck of special forces police sits parked outside National Capitol building in Havana, Cuba, on July 14, 2021, days after protests. Demonstrators voiced grievances on Sunday against goods shortages, rising prices and power cuts, and some called for a change of government. Eliana Aponte/AP Photo

Díaz-Canel for the first time is offering some self-criticism while saying that government shortcomings in handling shortages and other problems played a role in this week's protests.

But in a televised address Wednesday night, he also called on Cubans to not act with hate—a reference to the violence that occurred at some of the rare street demonstrations in which protesters voiced grievances over high prices, food shortages and power outages, while some people also called for a change in the government.

Until now, the Cuban government had only blamed social media and the U.S. government for the weekend protests, which were the biggest seen in Cuba since a quarter century ago, when then-President Fidel Castro personally went into the streets to calm crowds of thousands furious over dire shortages following the collapse of the Soviet Union and its economic subsidies for the island.

Police moved in and arrested dozens of protesters, sometimes violently, and the government has accused protesters of looting and vandalizing shops. Smaller protests continued Monday and officials reported at least one death. No incidents were reported Wednesday.

"Our society is not a society that generates hatred and those people acted with hatred," Díaz-Canel said. "The feeling of Cubans is a feeling of solidarity and these people carried out these armed acts, with vandalism...yelling for deaths...planning to raid public places, breaking, robbing, throwing stones."

Authorities did not report the number of people arrested, Col. Moraima Bravet of the Interior Ministry said Wednesday only that they are mostly between the ages of 25 and 37 and will be prosecuted such crimes as public disorder, assault, contempt, robbery or damage.

Cuba is suffering its worst crisis in years from a combination of the coronavirus pandemic that has paralyzed its economy, including the vital tourism industry, inefficiencies in the state-run economy and the tightening of U.S. sanctions on the island. The administration of President Donald Trump imposed more than 200 measures against the island in four years.

Díaz-Canel said that this "complex situation" was taken advantage of "by those who do not really want the Cuban revolution to develop or a civilized relationship with respect with the United States."

Cuba Protests
Cuban officials announced several policy changes Wednesday in an effort to ease discontent in the country. Above, riot police walk the streets after a demonstration against the government of President Miguel Diaz-Canel in Arroyo Naranjo Municipality, Havana, on July 12, 2021. Yamil Lage/AFP via Getty Images