The COVID-19 pandemic has compounded a crisis of legitimacy for Cuba’s first leader of the post-Castro era. The initial pandemic response, relying on lockdowns, was effective but worsened the country’s economic problems. Then a wave of infections driven by a new variant of the virus overwhelmed the celebrated public health system. Instead of acknowledging citizens’ sacrifices and grievances, the government has sought to discredit dissent. But there have been protests of unprecedented scale, and hundreds of thousands of Cubans have left the country since the borders reopened in late 2021.

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