Cubans staged rare street protests Sunday over food and electricity shortages as the island suffered long outages that left some areas without power for up to 14 hours a day.

"People were shouting 'food and electricity'," a 65-year-old resident, who asked not to be identified, told AFP by phone from the island's second-largest city Santiago de Cuba, 800 kilometers (500 miles) east of the capital Havana.

Electricity was restored to the city later in the day and "two truckloads of rice" were delivered, the resident said.

Social media platforms were filled with images of protests in Santiago de Cuba, a city of 510,000 people. There were also images of protests in another large city, Bayamo.

Unprecedented mass anti-government protests by citizens clamoring for food and greater freedoms amid deep economic and social woes in communist Cuba in July 2021 were forcefully put down.

Nearly 500 protesters were sentenced to prison terms of up to 25 years, according to the authorities, on charges including sedition.

- President urges 'dialogue' -

Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel responded to Sunday's protests by urging "dialogue" with the people in an "atmosphere of tranquility".

"Several people have expressed their dissatisfaction with the electricity situation and food distribution," Diaz-Canel said on X, warning that "enemies of the Revolution" aimed to exploit the situation.

"The disposition of the authorities of the Party.... and the Government is to attend to the complaints of our people, to listen, to dialogue, to explain the numerous steps being taken to improve the situation, always in an atmosphere of tranquility," he said.

Diaz-Canel also denounced "terrorists based in the United States... who are encouraging actions that go against the internal order of the country."

The US embassy in Havana said on X it was aware of reports of "peaceful protests" in Santiago, Bayamo and other parts of Cuba. It urged the Cuban government to "respect the human rights of the protestors and address the legitimate needs of the Cuban people."

Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez responded on X, urging Washington not to "interfere in the country's internal affairs."

- 'Very difficult' situation -

Cuba has been experiencing a wave of blackouts since the start of March due to maintenance works on the Antonio Guiteras thermoelectric plant, the island's largest.

The situation was worsened at the weekend by a shortage of fuel needed to generate electricity.

The outages left areas such as Santiago de Cuba without power for up to 14 hours a day.

Cuba's power comes from eight old thermoelectric power plants, generators and eight floating electricity plants leased from Turkey, which were also affected by the fuel shortage.

The cash-strapped island nation imposed a more-than 400 percent fuel price hike this month as part of an economic recovery plan.

The nation of 11 million is experiencing its worst economic crisis since the collapse of the Soviet bloc in the 1990s due to fallout from the coronavirus pandemic, the recent tightening of US sanctions and structural weaknesses in the economy.

"Everything is expensive and wages are low," said a 28-year-old beautician living in Santiago de Cuba, who asked to remain anonymous.

Local archbishop Dionisio Garcia said: "Let's hope that solutions emerge." He said by phone the situation in the city "was very difficult" due to the blackouts.

According to official estimates, the Cuban economy shrank by two percent in 2023, while inflation reached 30 percent. Independent experts say this is likely an underestimation.

There are chronic shortages of fuel and other necessities and the government subsidizes almost all of the goods and services consumed by Cubans.