HAVANA: Cuba's President Miguel Diaz-Canel on Saturday denounced what he said was a false narrative over unrest on the Caribbean island, as the Communist regime vigorously pushed back against suggestions of historically widespread discontent.
"What the world is seeing of Cuba is a lie," Diaz-Canel said, speaking during a rally alongside ex-president Raul Castro and before thousands of supporters who had gathered on the Malecon, Havana's famed oceanfront boulevard.
The rally, and similar ones in other cities, constituted the regime's first public response to the anti-government protests that unexpectedly brought thousands to Cuban streets last weekend.
Organizers described the event Saturday as one of "revolutionary reaffirmation."
Cries from the crowd - "Down with the Yankees!" and "We were born to conquer, not be conquered!" - echoed the anti-imperialist language of the original Cuban revolutionary, former president Fidel Castro.
Diaz-Canel decried what he said was the dissemination of "false images" on social networks that "glorify the outrage and destruction of property."
Those images, he said, had caused "immeasurable damage to the national soul."
On July 11 and 12, thousands of Cubans took to the streets in 40 cities shouting "Freedom," "Down with the dictatorship," and "We're hungry."
One person has died and more than 100 have been arrested since the protests broke out over the worst economic crisis in decades. There is an "overflowing hatred on social networks," the president insisted on Saturday.
His supporters, summoned from work places and universities, waved red-blue-and-white Cuban flags and the banner of the 1959 revolution. They enthusiastically applauded both Diaz-Canel and Raul Castro.
The presence of the 90-year-old Castro, drawn out of retirement because of the gravity of the situation, was noteworthy. He wore his olive-green general's uniform, harkening back to his revolutionary role alongside brother Fidel.