The protests have continued despite a brutal police response, which has likely left hundreds arrested and more facing fines that far outpace their monthly wages.
Cuban Protests Continue
Cuba has temporarily lifted restrictions on imports by international travelers as an apparent concession to anti-government protesters, authorities announced Wednesday.
For decades, Cuba has imposed high customs duties on goods brought onto the island by international travelers in an attempt to bolster government revenue. Some of the most affected items were essential goods, such as food, medicine, and hygiene products. The restrictions have partially aided in a severe shortage of goods across Cuba and helped fueled the largest anti-government protests since 1994.
Like many countries around the world, Cuba is also facing increased hardships because of the COVID-19 pandemic, leading to even further restrictions on when people can go out and attempt to procure elusive goods.
The protests began on Sunday and were met with a severe government crackdown. Exact numbers in the reclusive country are hard to verify, but multiple outlets reported that hundreds have been detained by police Independent journalists are allegedly also being systematically targeted.
In response to the growing protests, Cuban authorities largely shut off the internet. By Thursday, services were mostly restored, with videos showing that anti-government protests continued across the island and that the concession to ease restrictions on imported goods likely didn’t address the core issues for many Cubans.
Blaming the Embargo
The Cuban government has long blamed the island’s chronic shortages on the decades-long trade embargo imposed by the United States. It has attempted to paint the recent protests as a product of the embargo despite rhetoric from protesters demanding political freedom. On Thursday, Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel Bermudez tweeted, “The blockade surpasses any desire, it delays us, it does not allow us to advance.” He added that the problems caused by it compound, leading to Cuba’s current predicament.
Without a doubt, the embargo has aided in shortages throughout Cuba as it places restrictions on ships from coming to U.S. ports if they wish to go to Cuba as well, effectively restricting trade to the island from international partners unless the ship is willing to skip the U.S. completely. However, it doesn’t completely cut off trade, and many of the shortages on the island have been blamed on government mismanagement, as nearly the entire Cuban economy is centrally controlled.
Regardless, the Cuban government’s anti-embargo messaging has been partially supported by some U.S. politicians and organizations. Black Lives Matter wrote on Instagram, “The people of Cuba are being punished by the U.S. government because the country has maintained its commitment to sovereignty and self-determination. United States leaders have tried to crush this Revolution for decades. “
“Since 1962, the United States has forced pain and suffering on the people of Cuba by cutting off food, medicine and supplies, costing the tiny island an estimated $130 billion,” the post continued. “Now, we look to president Biden to end the embargo, something Barack Obama called for in 2016. This embargo is a blatant human rights violation and it must end.”
The statement has received widespread pushback from across the political spectrum, with one user writing “Shame on you BLM. Sharing awareness on Cuba’s fight for freedom is appreciated, but your message is all wrong.”
By and large, Cubans and Cuban-Americans have been angry with messaging such as that by Black Lives Matter for failing to consider that protesting Cubans rarely mention the embargo in their chants or demands, but rather call for widespread political changes, decreased civil repression, and anger at government policies that lead to widespread shortages of goods that are normally widely available.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) also partially blamed the embargo in a statement, but also made sure to acknowledge abuses by the Cuban government, writing in an accompanying tweet, “We stand in solidarity with the Cuban people and condemn the suppression of the media, speech, and protest.”
“We also call for an end to the U.S. embargo and additional Trump-era restrictions that are profoundly contributing to the suffering of Cubans,” Ocasio-Cortez continued.
Protests have continued despite the eased restrictions on customs duties, and there are fears that another wave of Cuban migrants may come to the U.S. by traveling on sea, an extremely dangerous route. To discourage this, Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas warned would-be refugees on Tuesday, saying, “Allow me to be clear: if you take to the sea, you will not come to the United States… To those who risk their lives doing so, this risk is not worth taking.”
“The United States stands firmly with the people of Cuba as they assert their universal rights. We call on the government, the government of Cuba, to refrain from violence and their attempts to silence the voice of the people of Cuba,” he added.
See what others are saying: (CNN) (Miami Herald) (BBC)
200 Children Seeking Asylum in the U.K. Are Missing
The missing include at least 13 children under the age of 16.
Children Missing From Hotels
There are 200 asylum-seeking children missing from government care in the United Kingdom according to the parliamentary undersecretary of state at the Home Office.
When children are seeking asylum in the U.K. alone or separated from their parents, the government puts them up in hotel rooms for temporary accommodation. They have done so since 2021 and have temporarily accommodated 4,600 children in that time. However, Simon Murray, the parliamentary undersecretary of state at the Home Office, said that 200 of the children placed in those hotels are missing, including at least 13 who are under the age of 16.
In response to this information, a collection of more than 100 charities sent a letter to the Prime Minister demanding the end of the procedure of placing kids in hotels over safety concerns. The letter says that these children are at risk of trafficking and exploitation by staying in these hotels alone.
Other officials have echoed these concerns, claiming these hotels are targets for organized crime where people use these vulnerable children for labor or trafficking.
Parliament Calls Incident “Horrific”
Murray told the House of Lords on Monday that despite the media reports, his department does not know of any kidnapping cases, though they are investigating. He went on to say there are many reasons why children go missing.
However, lawmakers were not appeased by Murray’s assurances. In a later debate, one member of Parliament called the missing cases “horrific” and another said that it was “putting children at risk.” The children’s commissioner for England also reportedly chimed in asking for, quote “assurances on the steps being taken to safeguard the children.”
Murray went on to say that the use of hotels for asylum-seeking children will hopefully be phased out as soon as possible but did not give a timeline.
The nonprofit Refugee Council called on the government in a tweet to spare no expense in the location of these missing kids.
See what others are saying: (Washington Post) (The Guardian) (The Telegraph)
100,000 U.K. Nurses Launch Biggest Strike in NHS History
Opposition leader Keir Starmer called the strike “a badge of shame on this government.”
The NHS Grinds to a Halt
Some 100,000 members of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN), the United Kingdom’s largest nursing union, launched a historic 12-hour strike Thursday after the government refused to negotiate on higher pay.
The work stoppage, which spans England, Wales, and Northern Ireland, is only the second in the RCN’s 106-year history and the largest the NHS has ever seen. It marks the breaking point for many underpaid nurses and the culmination of a years-long decline in the NHS’s quality of care, put under increasing stress by severe staffing shortages.
Although most NHS staff in England and Wales received a pay rise of around £1,400 this year, worth about 4% on average for nurses, they say it has not kept up with inflation as Britain plunges deeper into a cost-of-living crisis.
When inflation is accounted for, nurses’ pay dropped 1.2% every year from 2010 to 2017, according to the Health Foundation.
Meanwhile, the number of patients waiting for care has reached a record 7.2 million in England, or over one in eight residents, more than double what it was seven years ago.
In July, the cross-party Commons Health and Social Care Select Committee estimated the staffing shortfall could be as high as 50,000 nurses and 12,000 doctors, what one MP called the “greatest workforce crisis in history.”
Many nurses argue that boosting pay will help hospitals recruit more staff.
The RCN demanded a pay raise 5% above the retail rate of inflation, which amounts to a 19% increase, but both Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and the government’s health secretary have claimed that’s not affordable.
During Thursday’s strike, partial staffing continued to remain open for urgent care such as chemotherapy, kidney dialysis, and children’s accident and neonatal units.
Sunak and Starmer Brawl in Parliament
Labor leader Keir Starmer grilled Sunak during Wednesday’s Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs) on the upcoming strike.
“Tomorrow will be the first-ever nationwide nurse’s strike,” he said. “All the Prime Minister has to do to stop that is to open the door and discuss pay with them. If he did, the whole country would breathe a sigh of relief. Why won’t he?”
“We have consistently spoken to all the unions involved in all the pay disputes that there are,” Sunak replied. “Last year, when everyone else in the public sector had a public sector pay freeze, the nurses received a three-percent pay rise.”
Starmer fired back: “Nurses going on strike is a badge of shame for this government. Instead of showing leadership, he’s playing games with people’s health.”
Sunak called Starmer’s demand that he reopen negotiations with the RCN “just simply a political formula for avoiding taking a position on this issue.”
“If he thinks the strikes are wrong, he should say so,” Sunak said. “If he thinks it’s right that pay demands of nineteen percent are met, then he should say so. What’s weak, Mr. Speaker, is he’s not strong enough to stand up to the union.”
While Starmer has called on Sunak to negotiate with the RCN, he has not explicitly backed the 19% pay raise himself.
Unless the government returns to the bargaining table, the RCN plans to launch a second round of strikes on Dec. 20 to be followed by ambulance strikes that Wednesday and the next.
If the government still refuses to budge, the union said in a statement that nurses will strike for longer periods in more places starting in January, disrupting more health services.
Other industries are also set to see work stoppages this month, including workers on railways, buses, highways, and borders, as well as teachers, postal workers, baggage handlers, and paramedics.
See what others are saying: (BBC) (CNN) (The Guardian)
Fortnite Developer Sued By Parents for Making the Game as “Addictive as Possible”
One child mentioned in the lawsuit played over 7,700 rounds of Fortnite in two years.
Epic Games Sued
A Quebec City judge recently approved a 2019 class-action lawsuit accusing Fortnite developer Epic Games of deliberately making Fortnite addictive.
The parents who brought forward the lawsuit claim their children have become so obsessed with the game that in some cases, they’ve stopped eating, showering, or socializing. The lawsuit claims that these kids have played thousands of games since Fortnite’s release in 2017. In one example, a teenager played over 7,700 games in less than two years.
If the lawsuit succeeds, players addicted to Fortnite living in Quebec since September 2017 could receive compensation. The plaintiff’s attorney, Philippe Caron, reports that over 200 parents outside the lawsuit have reached out to him, saying their child’s well-being has diminished since downloading Fortnite. He told The Washington Post that they are very confident about their case.
Epic Games Responds
“We plan to fight this in court,” Natalie Munoz, a spokesperson for Epic Games said to The Post, “We believe the evidence will show that this case is meritless.”
Munoz also said that Fortnite does allow parents to supervise their child’s playtime and require permission for purchases.
The parents involved in the lawsuit are claiming that they were not aware of the dangers playing Fortnite could pose for their children.
“If she had been informed by the defendants of the risks and dangers associated with the use of FORTNITE,” the lawsuit says of one guardian. “She would have categorically refused to allow the game to be downloaded.”