Cuban mom hashes out grievances with government after angry online tirade
By Dave Sherwood
HAVANA (Reuters) -A Cuban mother of three on Monday met with local officials in Havana to hash out her grievances after posting on social media a video of herself lambasting the Communist-run government for economic crisis and shortages on the island.
In the video, posted live on Facebook last Friday, Amelia Calzadilla, a 31-year-old professional translater, waves her electric bill before the camera then launches into an 8-minute tirade against the government, complaining of soaring prices, blackouts and a lack of cooking gas in her building.
“My question is for the Cuban mother who gets up in the morning like me, worried they will cut off your electricity, not knowing what you will give your children for food at the end of the day after school …,” Calzadilla says, growing increasingly agitated over the course of the recording.
“To you, I ask: how much more can you take? Because I can’t take it anymore.”
Calzadilla´s video, an unusually pointed outburst on an island where such reproaches are typically not tolerated, went viral and has been shared tens of thousands of times and viewed across multiple social media outlets.
On Monday, Calzadilla, together with her parents, met with local officials, including the municipal president of the densely populated Havana neighborhood of Cerro, she said, in an attempt to defuse tensions over the video.
After the meeting, which she called “respectful,” Calzadilla said on social media that officials explained why her problems with the municipality had not been resolved but said she remained unconvinced.
“Until now, there has been no solution,” she said in another video on Facebook. “I am waiting for them to call on me again.”
In the original Friday video, she made clear her beef was not with municipal workers, but “with those above,” blaming President Diaz Canel, his wife, Lis Cuesta, as well as the ministers of energy and foreign affairs for failing to fix the country’s deepening woes.
Cuban state media on Saturday published a column by University of Havana researcher Ernesto Estevez-Rams that said the video was a “textbook example” of manipulation aimed at prompting a “social explosion.”
“Let’s not let them … manipulate us according to a well-drawn political agenda,” Estevez-Rams said in state-run news website CubaDebate. “This is a lab operation, nothing spontaneous behind it – the usual suspects.”
Calzadilla denies those allegations, and said her social media post had served simply as an outlet for her frustration. The Cuban government did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.
Cuba is suffering from its deepest economic crisis since the collapse of the Soviet Union, made worse by two years of coronavirus pandemic and tightened U.S. sanctions under former President Donald Trump.
Cubans wait for hours daily for food, transport and fuel, and power outages have grown more frequent as summer approaches.
The festering crisis last July sparked the largest protests on the island since Fidel Castro’s 1959 revolution.
The government blamed the United States for stoking the unrest and sentenced nearly 300 protesters to jail on charges ranging from sedition to public disorder.
(Reporting by Dave Sherwood; Editing by Marguerita Choy and Stephen Coates)