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State Dept. tweet blaming Cuban protests on COVID pegged as ‘ridiculous’ by Senator Rubio

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A tweet sent from the account of a high-ranking State Department official was criticized for linking current unprecedented protests in the Caribbean island of Cuba to the spread of COVID-19 and the country’s reported lack of ability to deal with it.

The tweet came from the account of Julie Chung, who is the acting assistant secretary for the department’s Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs, whose accounted noted on Sunday: “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.”

Chung’s Twitter bio notes that personal tweets from her are followed by her initials, “JC”; the aforementioned tweet did not carry her initials, and it wasn’t clear by Monday who actually sent it.

Nevertheless, it was deeply criticized for appearing to miss the point of the protests completely, as did others including The New York Times, which noted in a tweet reporting on the unrest that Cuban demonstrators were “shouting ‘freedom’ and other anti-government slogans.'”

“I’ll never forget those protests against the German Measles,” noted attorney and conservative podcaster Ron Coleman in a tweet featuring a photo of a man swinging a sledgehammer at the Berlin Wall that divided democratic West German from Communist-ruled East Germany for decades until it was torn down in 1989 as the Soviet Union disintegrated.

“Is this a parody account?” asked Florida state Rep. Anthony Sabatini, who is running for a U.S. House seat in 2022.

“Are you serious!? They’re protesting a corrupt communist regime! They want freedom. It’s not about COVID. You are embarrassing,” added Christina Pushaw, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ press secretary.

“It’s not COVID, it’s communism,” wrote Buzz Patterson, a former Air Force pilot running for a U.S. House seat in California in the midterms.

Sen. Marco Rubio, whose parents were born in Cuba, posted a video in response to the tweet and the events taking place in Cuba, calling the Chung post “ridiculous.”

In the video, Rubio said that, at the time, it had been 12 hours since Cubans in 32 cities around the 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.

He went on to say that while COVID may have been what pushed many Cubans to the brink, the country has been a Communist dictatorship for more than 62 years.

“These people are frustrated. They want to live in a normal country,” Rubio continued. “They don’t want to have their kids getting on rafts and leaving the country” bound for the United States on what is often a dangerous journey.

“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!”

White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan quoted another tweet from Chung’s State Dept. account regarding U.S. concerns about “calls to combat” in Cuba, writing that 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 right.”

Pushaw responded to Chung by channeling Rubio: “Who’s being violent in Cuba, Julie? Where are the “calls for combat” coming from? Why can’t you condemn the communist regime? You embody everything wrong with the State Department.”

Jon Dougherty

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