Demonstrators were braving the heat to protest Cuba’s oppressive labor system. Here’s what they got.

By Micah Halpern, Jason Samenow, Tony Messenger, and Matt McAvoy | The Washington Post Driving down the street Tuesday afternoon was the familiar sight in Cuba: people idling their cars and bus stations, line…

Demonstrators were braving the heat to protest Cuba’s oppressive labor system. Here’s what they got.

By Micah Halpern, Jason Samenow, Tony Messenger, and Matt McAvoy | The Washington Post

Driving down the street Tuesday afternoon was the familiar sight in Cuba: people idling their cars and bus stations, line after line of people, up and down the road.

But this was more than just a massive group of people in Havana waiting for rides.

This rally, and the massive group of public employees outside the National Assembly building, represented a historic moment in the country’s history. For the first time since 2015, Cuba is following in the footsteps of several other countries that have previously democratized their labor laws. And for many of the people waiting to take their message to the streets, they were hoping to push even further.

But what they came for Wednesday — a protest against the lack of paid leave and a decreased minimum wage — was ultimately met with mixed results.

Despite smaller-than-anticipated crowds, the small contingent of demonstrators in front of the National Assembly filled a room normally reserved for hundreds of customers to eat in the early afternoon. A few protesters held onto their screens, staring at a map of the U.S. all while whistling and jingle bells played in the background.

In front of the chamber, a crowd of demonstrators wearing pink for #disloyalty sat in chairs dressed as if they were in class, still discussing the problems they had with the administration of President Raul Castro.

This was their solution: Leaving the country. “Jobs that kill children, people that steal food, people that have violent tendencies. We are not going to buy these,” said Pablo Limón, who is a member of Cuban Democratic Directorate. “They threaten us, they insult us, they took away our right to go on vacation.”

Their biggest concern was the lack of paid time off. They said almost everyone who comes to work for the government in Cuba gets only four weeks of paid leave after getting hired, and it is rarely used. By the time most employees get to vacation, they often have exhausted their sick leave and even had to deal with car trouble or some other unexpected circumstance.

To Ramon Martinez, who works as a postman and was standing in front of the National Assembly, he said these measures are simply not sufficient.

“They say that the worst thing you can do with your life is not work,” Martinez said. “So we think that the way you can help your life is by working.”

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