"Portugal's position is very simple: we hope that the situation in Cuba evolves positively and that people's rights are respected, among which, from our point of view, includes the right to peaceful demonstrations and meetings," the head of Portuguese diplomacy told Lusa.

The head of Portuguese diplomacy expressed his desire that "problems of an economic, social and political nature have answers and political solutions," because "that is the best way to solve problems.

The minister also addressed the economic sanctions imposed by the US on the Caribbean island and reaffirmed old criticisms.

"Portugal also, understands like many other countries in the world, that the lifting of sanctions by the United States would greatly help overcome some of the economic difficulties that Cuba is facing."

The US economic blockade "does not explain everything, but the sanctions regime is another negative element, in this case exogenous, that the Cuban population has to deal with".

Overwhelmed by the economic crisis, which has aggravated the shortage of food and medicine and forced the government to cut off electricity for several hours a day, thousands of Cubans spontaneously took to the streets on Sunday, 11 July, in dozens of cities across the country, chanting "We are hungry", "Freedom" and "Down with the dictatorship".

This is an unprecedented mobilisation in Cuba where the only meetings allowed are usually those of the Cuban Communist Party (PCC, single party), and security forces have made dozens of arrests and clashed with demonstrators.

So far, the authorities have not released an official number of arrests, but a provisional list drawn up by local activists already includes 65 names in Havana alone.

Among those arrested are well-known personalities such as the artist Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara, the moderate dissident Manuel Cuesta Morúa and the playwright Yunior García Aguilera.

Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel on Sunday urged his supporters to take to the streets ready for "combat" in response to demonstrations against the government in various parts of the country.

He also commented on the health situation in the country, and expressed concern and solidarity.

"Regarding the fight against the epidemic, I wish that everything goes for the best in Cuba as in any other country in the world," he said, recalling that the fight against Covid-19 has been a very big challenge for governments all over the world.

"It is a very unequal fight that we are all fighting because it seems that the virus moves faster than we ourselves in the response," so he wishes "everyone, and therefore also Cuba, the best performance and the best success in the fight against the pandemic," the minister added.