“We call on all revolutionaries of the country, all communists, to go out in the streets where these provocations occur,” Diaz-Canel said in a televised address on Sunday.
He told government supporters, some of whom had already organized pro-government demonstrations in the capital city Havana, to rally “in a decisive, firm and courageous way.”
Meanwhile, thousands of people—frustrated by the economic situation and the toughest phase of the coronavirus pandemic — took part in rare protests in Havana and other cities on Sunday demanding Diaz-Canel step down.
“The energy situation seems to have produced some reaction,” the president told reporters in San Antonio de los Banos, blaming US sanctions imposed by former president Donald Trump and left unchanged by President Joe Biden.
The United States has maintained a harsh economic, financial and commercial embargo against Cuba for more than 60 years. Numerous resolutions by the United Nations General Assembly have indicated that the blockade is against international law.
Diaz-Canel, who also heads the Communist Party, accused “a Cuban-American mafia” of whipping up the protests on social media.
The president acknowledged that many protesters were sincere but manipulated by US-orchestrated social media campaigns and “mercenaries” on the ground. He called on supporters to counter such “provocations,” which he said would not be tolerated anymore.
The US has recently further tightened the illegal embargo under the pretext of fighting the spread of the coronavirus.
Many Cubans have grown frustrated with the economic crisis and a surge in coronavirus cases.
The government has reiterated that the US embargo is impeding the country’s ability to purchase equipment and other supplies to deal with COVID-19 and is making the pandemic worse.
Despite the sanctions, Cuba has been developing five domestic COVID-19 vaccines, and last month announced that one of them, called Abdalla, was 92 percent efficient.
Washington quick to react
Meanwhile, Washington reacted swiftly to the protests in Cuba.
“The US supports freedom of expression and assembly across Cuba, and would strongly condemn any violence or targeting of peaceful protesters who are exercising their universal rights,” US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said on Twitter.