Hundreds of thousands of Cubans march in the traditional May Day parade at Revolution Square in Havana, Cuba, Tuesday, May 1, 2018. (Alejandro Ernesto/Pool photo via AP)

‘Cuban protests’ imagery is close but no cigar

AAP FactCheck July 22, 2021

The Statement

Several social media users are sharing images of large outdoor gatherings that purport to show anti-government protests in Cuba.

A Facebook user posted a photo on July 16 apparently showing many thousands of people stretching the length of a long tree-lined avenue.

Some of the crowd are holding up Cuban flags, with the post’s caption claiming: “​​Cuban’s (sic) fighting for their freedom. #SocialismSucks.” Multiple Facebook users in Australia and New Zealand have published the same image along with suggestions that it depicts people protesting against Cuban authorities – see here, here and here.

Similarly, a video of the supposed Cuban protests has also been circulating on social media. The footage pans across masses of people gathered in a public square at night.

One Facebook user posted the video on July 16 along with the comment: “Current situation in Havana, Cuba.”

The Facebook post from July 16
 Facebook users in Australia and NZ claim a photo shows people protesting against Cuban authorities 

The Analysis

It’s true that anti-government protests have recently taken place in Cuba – but they are not depicted in either the photo or the video shown in the posts.

The photo is from the 2018 May Day parade in Havana – an annual event held in celebration of International Workers’ Day on May 1. The picture was taken by Cuban photographer Alejandro Ernesto and can be found in the Reuters picture library here, captioned: “People march during the May Day rally in Havana, Cuba May 1 2018.” The image is also available via Getty Images here.

On May 2, 2018, NBC News included the photo in a story about May Day rallies around the world, adding the caption: “The May Day parade in Cuba’s capital drew hundreds of thousands of people, many of whom carried posters with the face of former president Fidel Castro.” ABC News in the US also used the photo in May 2018, as part of its “This Week in Pictures” feature.

Other fact-checkers have also identified the old photo as being falsely linked to the recent anti-government protests, see here and here.

The video that is claimed to show masses of Cuban protesters was not even filmed in the country. Instead, the footage shows soccer fans in Buenos Aires who are celebrating Argentina’s victory against Brazil in the final of the 2021 Copa America on July 10.

International news reports about the Buenos Aires celebration – see here, here and here – clearly show it to be the same location as the purported Cuba protest video.

A comparison of the footage reveals numerous visual clues they were shot in the same place, including the position of digital advertising boards, the shape of the building facades and seemingly identical lighting poles.

However, the most obvious sign the footage is from Argentina is the sight of Buenos Aires’ landmark obelisk – known locally as ‘El Obelisco’ – a 67m-tall structure at the intersection of Avenida 9 de Julio and Avenida Corrientes in the capital. It is seen illuminated in the blue and white colours of the Argentinian flag in the the videos.

This 2014 Google Maps photo of central Buenos Aires, captured from a similar height and position as the alleged “Cuba protest” video, shows the clip was filmed from one side of Plaza de la República, the large public square in which the obelisk is located.

Nevertheless, it is correct that Cuba has witnessed recent widespread anti-government protests. On July 12, the BBC reported that “thousands” of Cubans took to the streets against President Miguel Diaz-Canal‘s communist government, with protesters reportedly angered by “the collapse of the economy, food and medicine shortages, price hikes and the government’s handling of the pandemic”.

Thousands of Cubans march in the 2018 May Day parade
 A photo by Alejandro Ernesto of Cubans marching in the May Day parade at Revolution Square in 2018. 

The Verdict

Neither the photo nor the video in the Facebook posts show anti-government protests in Cuba as claimed. The photo is from a May Day parade in Havana in 2018 to mark International Workers’ Day, while the video shows soccer fans in Buenos Aires celebrating Argentina’s Copa America win on July 10.

False – Content that has no basis in fact.

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