Biden backs protesters in Cuba, urges communist leaders to ‘hear’ their demands

Heavily impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, the island nation has erupted in protests for the first time in decades

This month thousands of protestors gathered in Cuba to push back against a government they allege has left them starving during the ongoing pandemic. Now President Joe Biden has come forward to explicitly show his support to the demonstrators while urging Cuban officials to take their pleas seriously.

Monday, POTUS put out a statement on the protests in Cuba and addressed the demonstrations at the top of a meeting in the Roosevelt Room, where he described the outraged citizens of the island nation as “remarkable.”

“We stand with the Cuban people as they bravely assert their fundamental and universal rights, and as they all call for freedom and relief from the tragic grip of the pandemic and from the decades of repression and economic suffering,” read the caption on the official POTUS Twitter account, along with a link to Biden’s statement.

“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,” Biden’s statement concluded.

Sunday’s protests represent the biggest anti-government demonstrations on the Communist-run island in decades. In Miami, which is known for its massive Cuban population, Mayor Francis Suarez appeared at a demonstration taking place in an area known as Little Havana to denounce the Communist regime on the island in front of thousands of supporters.

Miami's Little Havana Community Reacts To Protests In Cuba
People rally near Versailles, a Cuban restaurant in the Little Havana neighborhood, in support of the protests in Cuba on July 11, 2021 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

“Cubans are worthy and ready to rule themselves without tyranny,” Mayor Suarez said Sunday. “It can end today and it must end today. The implications of this moment can mean freedom for millions of people in the hemisphere, from Nicaraguans and Venezuelans and so many more.”

“I have never felt such raw emotion from the people of Miami desperate for intervention by the government and by themselves on behalf of Cuba,” the politician also posted on Twitter. “This is the moment for freedom in Cuba. IT CANNOT WAIT ANY LONGER!”

Outraged Cubans have been marching in cities across their homeland, including the capital Havana, to bring visibility to the collapse of the economy, wide-sweeping food shortages, and what they allege to be the government’s gross mishandling of the coronavirus pandemic.

While “freedom of speech” is widely cited as a God-given right in America, anyone who dares to critique the government risks jail time for their dissent on the island. However, fellow Cubans and allies in the U.S are urging local demonstrators to keep speaking out until the world is forced to take notice and then take action.

“We are not afraid. We want change, we do not want any more dictatorship,” one protester in San Antonio, Cuba told the BBC.

The island nation’s current president Miguel Díaz-Canel blamed the unrest on U.S. economic sanctions in place since 1962, which were relaxed by President Obama and then tightened by President Trump. Biden has so far not announced any change in policy since he’s come to office. 

Dìaz-Canel brought attention to the “policy of economic suffocation to provoke social unrest in the country,” on Cuban TV, per AFP.

“Is it not very hypocritical and cynical that you block me … and you want to present yourself as the big savior?” Díaz-Canel said, according to Reuters. “Lift the blockade … and then we will see what this people, that has achieved an immense social work despite what is practically a war economy, is capable of.”

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