President Biden on Monday told Havana’s Communist leadership to respect protesters’ rights and meet their demands for relief from the pandemic and the “economic suffering to which they have been subjected by Cuba‘s authoritarian regime.”
Mr. Biden weighed in as thousands of Cubans flooded the streets of the capital and other cities Sunday to demand food, vaccines and other support.
Protesters shouted “Libertad” — a cry for freedom — and some called for President Miguel Diaz-Canel to step down.
“The Cuban people are bravely asserting fundamental and universal rights,” Mr. Biden said. “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.”
Mr. Biden later told White House reporters that Cubans are “demanding their freedom.”
“I don’t think we’ve seen anything like these protests in a long long time if, quite frankly ever,” he said. “The U.S. stands firmly with the people of Cuba as they assert their universal rights. And we call on the government of Cuba to refrain from violence in their attempt to silence the voices of the people of Cuba.”
Cuba‘s economic situation has worsened amid the pandemic due to a drop in tourism and imports. The Cuban regime says U.S. economic sanctions, which were tightened under the Trump administration bear much of the blame for the island’s plight.
The U.S. embassy in Cuba and top U.S. officials acknowledged the protesters’ plight and warned Cuban leaders to respect their rights instead of cracking down.
“The U.S. supports freedom of expression and assembly across Cuba, and would strongly condemn any violence or targeting of peaceful protesters who are exercising their universal rights,” tweeted Jake Sullivan, Mr. Biden‘s national security adviser.
Sen. Ted Cruz, Texas Republican, went further, saying the communist regime must be consigned to the “dustbin of history.”
“This regime has brutalized and denied freedom to generations of Cubans, forcing many including my family to flee or be murdered, and over the coming days will widen its violence to try to suppress the brave protesters in the streets,” he said. “The American people stand squarely with the men and women of Cuba and their noble fight for liberty, and the Biden administration must unequivocally and forcefully tell the world as much — immediately.”