President Joe Biden has issued a statement regarding the growing protests and violence in Cuba but was called out by Republican lawmakers and former government officials for waiting a day to do so.
“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 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,” he added.
“The United States calls on the Cuban regime to hear their people and serve their needs at this vital moment rather than enriching themselves,” he said.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), responded by encouraging the president not to be “AWOL” — absent without leave — a military term describing a member who engaged in an unauthorized absence.
“President Biden, freedom in #Cuba needs you now! Don’t be AWOL,” Graham tweeted along with a CBS News story noting that some U.S. political leaders are supporting the protesters.
President Biden, freedom in #Cuba needs you now!
Don’t be AWOL.https://t.co/hWgxptw0nJ
— Lindsey Graham (@LindseyGrahamSC) July 12, 2021
Former acting Director of National Intelligence Richard Grenell added some historical context: “What do the protests in Iran in 2009 and the protests in Cuba in 2021 have in common? Joe Biden missed the moment for both.”
Earlier, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), whose parents escaped from Cuba, also railed at the Biden administration for remaining relatively silent as the protests in the Communist nation grew.
He cited a tweet from a ranking State Department official that appeared to equate the demonstrations and violence to frustrations over the COVID-19 pandemic rather than decades of brutal rule by the Castro brothers.
“Peaceful protests are growing in Cuba as the Cuban people exercise their right to peaceful assembly to express concern about rising COVID case/deaths & medicine shortage. We commend the numerous efforts of the Cuban people mobilizing donations to help neighbors in need,” said the tweet from the account of Julie Chung, the acting assistant secretary for the department’s Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs.
Rubio posted a video noting that, as of late Sunday, it had been 12 hours since Cubans in 32 cities around their country “took to the streets to protest Communist, Marxist, evil tyranny, and so far not a word — not a statement from [President] Joe Biden, from the vice president, from the White House…not a word.”
“Why is it so hard…to come forward and condemn the evil, Marxist regime?” he asked.
“These people are frustrated. They want to live in a normal country,” Rubio said, acknowledging that the COVID pandemic is also taking its toll, most likely. “They don’t want to have their kids getting on rafts and leaving the country.”
He said the primary reason why the protests jumped off is that Cubans want to be free.
“So why can’t the State Department, why can’t the White House, just say it clearly: This is not about COVID, this is not about anything else,” Rubio added. “This is about freedom. Say it!”
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