EMBATTLED Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel accused the US of deploying secret mercenaries to incite the biggest protests in 30 years.
Cuba's head of state blamed Washington for the widespread unrest sweeping through his country, which has seen demonstrators take to the streets waving American flags and chanting "freedom".
Diaz-Canel accused the US of sending in special ops to foment protests.
In a televised address, he blamed the US's "politics of economic asphyxiation" – referring to a blockade that has been in place since 1962 – for the insurrection.
"Is it not very hypocritical and cynical that you block me, and you want to present yourself as the big savior?" Diaz-Canel said, according to Reuters.
"Lift the blockade and then we will see what this people, that has achieved an immense social work despite what is practically a war economy, is capable of."
According to the BBC, Diaz-Canel, 61, accused the US of sending in elite mercenaries to incite protests.
"Who is bothered by the regime, the alleged regime, in Cuba? Who is bothered by the Cuban political system, the way we do things?" Diaz-Canel said.
"Not our people, not the majority of our people, because they are the ones who have built that system.
"Who is bothered? The government of the United States, because they don't see the virtues of this system of government in Cuba that is capable of working with all and working for all."
"We are prepared to do anything. We will be battling in the streets," he threatened.
Cubans have taken to the streets in protest amid the country’s worsening economic crisis.
Led by President Miguel Díaz-Canel, the island nation has seen the economy drop by 10.9 per cent in 2020, and two per cent through June 2021.
The resulting cash crunch has spawned shortages that have forced Cubans to queue for hours for basic goods throughout the pandemic.
THE TRUMP EFFECT
Former president Donald Trump doubled-down on calls for Joe Biden to "stand up" to Havana.
In a statement, Trump took aim at Biden, as well as former President Barack Obama.
"Don't forget that Biden and the Democrats campaigned on reversing my very tough stance on Cuba.
"Remember when Obama attended baseball games with Castros while they imprisoned, beat, and killed the Cuban people. I stand with the Cuban people 100% in their fight for freedom.
"The Government must let them speak and be free! Joe Biden MUST stand up to the Communist regime or–history will remember. The Cuban people deserve freedom and human rights! THEY ARE NOT AFRAID!"
On Monday, Biden said the US "stands firmly" with the people of Cuba.
"The Cuban people are bravely asserting fundamental and universal rights. Those rights, including the right of peaceful protest and the right to freely determine their own future, must be respected," Biden said in a statement.
"The United States calls on the Cuban regime to hear their people and serve their needs at this vital moment rather than enriching themselves," Biden went on.
Later, the president added that Cuba has not seen "anything like these protests in a long, long time if, quite frankly, ever."
"The U.S. stands firmly with the people of Cuba as they assert their universal rights. And we call on the government of Cuba to refrain from violence in their attempt to silence the voices of the people of Cuba," he said.
We stand with the Cuban people and their clarion call for freedom
Senator Ted Cruz, R-Texas, hit out at a State Department tweet on Sunday alleging the communist dictatorship protects citizens' "right to protest peacefully".
"Peaceful protests are growing in #Cuba as the Cuban people exercise their right to peaceful assembly," the post read.
Sharing an article that mentions Havana sending in a hit squad to quell protests, Cruz posted: "How is this possible?? The Biden State Dept told us that the Cuban communist dictatorship protects their 'right to peaceful assembly'?"
The White House and State Department did not immediately respond to emails from Fox News, who reported the story.
This comes as President Biden said in an earlier statement: "We stand with the Cuban people and their clarion call for freedom and relief from the tragic grip of the pandemic and from the decades of repression and economic suffering to which they have been subjected by Cuba's authoritarian regime."
Protestors, meanwhile, are calling for a change in the system and for the Cuban president to step down.
Sanctions imposed by the government to combat the pandemic shut down tourism and slowed other foreign revenue flows in a country dependent on them to import the bulk of its food and fuel.
Only 1.7m of Cuba's 11.2m residents have been vaccinated to date.
The arrival of the Delta variant has prompted cases to surge, with health authorities reporting a record 6,923 cases and 47 deaths on July 11- twice as many as the week before.
According to local reports, this grim milestone appeared to be the final straw as people shouted “down with the dictatorship” and violently attacked police officers.
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