Thousands of protesters took to the streets in protests across Cuba on Sunday, demanding an end to the Communist government amid an economic crisis and the COVID-19 pandemic. Crowds chanted, “Down with the dictatorship” and “We want liberty!” President Joe Biden did not respond to the protests on Sunday, and one of his State Department officials twisted the truth about the protests. However, Biden finally broke his silence on Monday.
“We stand with the Cuban people and their clarion call for freedom and relief from the tragic grip of the pandemic and from the decades of repression and economic suffering to which they have been subjected by Cuba’s authoritarian regime,” Biden said in a statement Monday morning.
“The Cuban people are bravely asserting fundamental and universal rights. Those rights, including the right of peaceful protest and the right to freely determine their own future, must be respected. The United States calls on the Cuban regime to hear their people and serve their needs at this vital moment rather than enriching themselves,” the president added.
Americans should celebrate the moral clarity in Biden’s statement, although many may take it with a grain of salt, considering the increasing impact of “democratic socialism” within the president’s party. In fact, the administration’s first response to the Cuban protests did not inspire confidence.
“Peaceful protests are growing in [Cuba] as the Cuban people exercise their right to peaceful assembly to express concern about rising COVID cases/deaths & medicine shortages,” Julie Chung, acting assistant secretary for the State Department’s Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs, posted on Twitter Sunday. “We commend the numerous efforts of the Cuban people mobilizing donations to help neighbors in need.”
Peaceful protests are growing in #Cuba as the Cuban people exercise their right to peaceful assembly to express concern about rising COVID cases/deaths & medicine shortages. We commend the numerous efforts of the Cuban people mobilizing donations to help neighbors in need.
— Julie Chung (@WHAAsstSecty) July 11, 2021
Many Cuban Americans rightly excoriated Chung’s tweet, which framed Cubans’ fight for liberty in terms of the pandemic rather than in terms of fighting for freedom.
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) condemned Chung’s tweet and Biden’s silence on Sunday evening.
“It’s now almost 10 p.m. Eastern time, it’s now been over 12 hours since in over 32 cities in Cuba, brave people have taken to the streets to protest against Communist, Marxist, evil tyranny, and so far, not a word. Not a word, not a statement from Joe Biden, from the vice president, from the White House. Not a word,” Rubio declared.
“Why is it so hard? Why is it so hard? Why are they so uncomfortable coming forward and just condemning this evil, socialist, Marxist regime?” Rubio asked. “It’s been 62 years while these people have been out there suffering, and what is so hard about coming forward and saying, ‘We’re not going to tolerate brutality. We’re not going to tolerate bloodshed. Do not step forward, Cuban military, and attack and hurt your own people. If you do it, you’re going to be held accountable.'”
“Why can’t Joe Biden just say that? Why can’t the White House just say that?” Rubio asked.
Then he turned to Chung’s tweet. “She makes it sound like what’s happening in Cuba is about people who are upset about COVID, and so they’re protesting. This is not just about COVID. Yeah, of course COVID is the icing on the cake here, because you’ve got a socialist regime that says to people, ‘You have no freedom, you have no independence, you have no ability to speak freely, but you have a really good health care system.’ They don’t! People are dying in their homes!”
“This is not about COVID or anything else. This is about freedom. Say it,” Rubio concluded.
This is a ridiculous tweet from @StateDept
People in #Cuba are protesting 62 years of socialism, lies,tyranny & misery not “expressing concern about rising COVID cases/deaths”
— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) July 12, 2021
It seems, at least for once, Biden did listen to Rubio. Let’s see if he backs up his words with action.