By Vatican News staff writer
Authorities in Cuba have temporarily lifted restrictions on food, medicine and other essentials in its first apparent concession following days of unrest and protests.
Beginning from Monday till the end of the year, travelers arriving in the country will be able to bring these items without having to pay a customs fee, the government said on Wednesday.
Making the announcement via a televised address, Prime Minister Manuel Marrero, alongside President Miguel Diaz-Canel said that the change was “a demand made by many travelers and it was necessary to take this decision.”
Before this latest change, travelers were only allowed to bring in up to 10kgs (22 pounds) of medicine tax-free under Cuban law. They are also permitted limited amounts of food and personal hygiene goods but must pay customs duties.
The anti-government protests in Cuba began on Sunday, with a demonstration in Havana that soon spread throughout the country.
Dozens have been arrested nationwide and authorities confirmed on Tuesday that one person had died amid the protests, which are rare in the communist-run country.
The demonstrations were sparked by the citizens’ discontent over shortages of basic goods, violation of civil liberties, electricity outages and the government’s poor handling of the Covid-19 pandemic. All these hardships have been further exacerbated by a US trade embargo on Cuba which was tightened under the previous administration.
Bishops call for mutual dialogue
Separately, the Bishops of Cuba have expressed themselves on the situation of unrest in the country
In a statement, the Bishops said that they are concerned that the response to the requests made by Cubans is immobility that serves to give continuity to the problems, without solving them.
“Not only do we see that situations get worse,” the Bishops said, “but we are also moving towards a rigidity and hardening of positions that could generate negative responses, with unpredictable consequences, that would harm us all.”
In the face of this, they urge that “a positive solution is not reached with impositions, nor by invoking confrontation” but rather through mutual listening by which common agreements are sought and concrete steps are taken that contribute to the good of all.
The bishops further invited everyone “not to favor the crisis situation, but with serenity of mind and good will, to exercise listening, understanding and an attitude of tolerance, which takes into account and respects the other, to seek together fair and adequate solutions.”
Cuban religious advocate peace
In the same vein, the Cuban Conference of Religious (CONCUR) have called on authorities to recognize that those who took to the streets are not criminals, but are rather ordinary people in our cities who have found a way to express their discontent.
“As consecrated persons, we live these events from the perspective of faith, and we also recognize the voice of God in those demands of the people.”
CONCUR went on to propose five points that could help overcome the situation:
They called for the defense of the legitimate and universal right of citizens to manifest in an orderly and peace manner in public spaces, the prompt release of all those who have been unjustly imprisoned; the right to information and communication that has been violated or by interrupting the connection of mobile phones and the blocking social networks.
The Cuban religious also warned against falling into the trap of violence as a way of imposing our own truth; and invited all to listen to each other to remedy the causes that gave rise to these manifestations.