The Cuban regime tried to con the world at a pro-government rally by packing out the meager crowd with soldiers in civilian clothes, DailyMail.com can reveal.
These exclusive photos show hundreds of young recruits from some of Cuba’s poorest areas being ferried away from the event last week in Russian-built military trucks.
The gathering, attended by former president Raul Castro and his successor, Miguel Diaz-Canel, was held opposite the US Embassy and intended to send a message that Cubans were unwavering in their loyalty to the repressive Communist government.
But these exclusive photos – shot from a hotel where DailyMail.com undercover journalists were spending a mandatory six-day Covid quarantine – told a very different story.
Long after the local and international TV cameras and other media had departed, the casually-dressed troops were brought to attention and marched onto around 20 trucks lined up to return them to barracks.
The great deception was part of Cuba’s ongoing effort to persuade the world that its population is happy under their rule, and the US-led sanctions were entirely to blame for their situation.
Exclusive DailyMail.com photos show hundreds of young recruits from some of Cuba’s poorest areas being bussed away from last week’s pro-government rally
The soldiers were dressed in civilian clothes as they packed into 20 Russian-built military trucks and drove back to the barracks
The gathering was held to send a message that Cubans were unwavering in their loyalty to the repressive Communist government
Plain-clothed Cuban troops are seen in the back of a military truck after the pro-government rally
The great deception was part of Cuba’s ongoing effort to persuade the world that its population is happy under the Communist regime
The undercover soldiers and assorted Communist Party officials dutifully cheered President Miguel Diaz-Canel’s every word and waved their Cuban flags in support
President Diaz-Canel said the US-led sanctions were entirely to blame for their situation on the island
That was the message rammed home by the President at the rally in the upmarket Vedado area of Havana on the famous Malecon seafront which faces towards Key West, just 90 miles north.
The government admitted some shortcomings but mostly blamed the protests on U.S. sanctions.
President Diaz-Canel, who also heads the Communist Party, blamed US-financed ‘counter-revolutionaries’ for the trouble, telling the crowd Cuba’s ‘enemy has once again thrown itself into destroying citizen’s sacred unity and tranquility.’
He said it was no small matter to call a rally as the country saw increasing numbers of COVID cases: ‘We convened you to denounce once more the blockade, the aggression and terror.’
The undercover soldiers and assorted Communist Party officials dutifully cheered his every word and waved their Cuban flags in support.
But the truth, as we found, speaking to ordinary people – some too frightened to be identified, others defiantly insisting on being named – is that the problems of this beautiful Caribbean island run far deeper.
One thing nearly all of them had in common was a burning desire to leave its shores by whatever means for a new life anywhere else.
The protests earlier this month across Cuba – and the brutal manner in which they were put down – shocked the world.
The combination of chronic food shortages, rampant inflation and soaring Covid infection rates, led to demonstrations and riots in virtually every town and city. The elite police riot units known as the ‘black berets’ injured scores of people, leaving one man dead and more than 300 arrested, with or without charge.
Never, since the revolution which brought Fidel Castro to power in 1959, has such widespread violence and dissent been witnessed on the streets of Havana and throughout the 780-mile long island nation.
The rally was attended by former president Raul Castro (right) and his successor, Miguel Diaz-Canel (left)
A woman holds a portrait of Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel during the ‘act of revolutionary reaffirmation’ rally in Havana last week
The crowd was largely packed with government troops. These exclusive photos were shot from a hotel where DailyMail.com undercover journalists were spending a mandatory six-day Covid quarantine
President Diaz-Canel, who also heads the Communist Party, blamed US-financed ‘counter-revolutionaries’ for the trouble, telling the crowd Cuba’s ‘enemy has once again thrown itself into destroying citizen’s sacred unity and tranquility’
DailyMail.com entered the country posing as tourists and toured the capital’s crumbling colonial streets, where soldiers and black berets stood guard on almost every corner. Shops had long lines of people outside in the 95 degree heat, desperate for medicines or food, but the shelves were usually all but bare.
Yet while its people struggle to eat, the government prioritizes growing food for export and bringing in hard currency from the tourist market. A gleaming white new hotel called the Paseo del Prada, stands in prime position on the Malecon, with not a single guest in its $300-a-night rooms.
Three huge terminals for cruise ships grace Havana harbor – one complete, the others still in construction – but no vessels or tourists have docked there since 2019 when President Trump banned US ships from visiting Cuba overnight.
Trump’s crackdown on Cuba followed the easing of the decades-old embargo by the Obama administration, which led to a short-lived surge in US tourism after 2016.
President Biden has been a vocal critic of the Cuban regime’s handling of this month’s protests and has so far shown little sign of relaxing the embargo.
Inland from the port, another new hotel called the Telegraph, is intended to capture the pink pound and will cater mainly for LGBTQ+ guests from the west, with its staff reflecting its clientele. But it too stands empty.