Supporters of Cubans demonstrating against tyranny in their country gathered in the Tampa Bay area on Tuesday to show solidarity while many called on the administration of President Joe Biden to jump on board as well.
Initially, demonstrators gathered at Al Lopez Park in Tampa, but later Tuesday afternoon many fanned out to nearby busy thoroughfares including Dale Mabry Highway and Himes Avenue. Later, police were forced to temporarily shut down a portion of Interstate 275 as some demonstrators blocked the highway chanting and waving Cuban and American flags.
At one point, demonstrators began to express their frustration with the Biden administration and the president himself over what they apparently believe has been a tepid response from the White House thus far.
“Where is Biden? Where is Biden?” many of them began chanting, according to local station Fox 13.
(Courtesy: Fox News)
“We need Biden’s support,” one male demonstrator wearing a Cuban flag as a cape told Fox News Digital. “We haven’t gotten the support from the president.
“We’re trying to fight, you know,” the demonstrator continued, adding: “We’re finished with the Communism.”
“Biden, you should listen to the people here, the elected officials who are Cubans and know what’s best for the people in Cuba,” said a young female protester who spoke to Fox News. “So just hear us out and let’s try to come together to see what we can do.”
“We are facing a tremendous genocide in Cuba,” a man donning a Cuban flag necklace told the network. “I think that Joe Biden should help us. That’s what we’re here for, asking for the White House to pronounce in favor of the people of Cuba.”
Earlier, as Biden met with mayors and law enforcement leaders to discuss gun violence, he called Cubans protesting shortages, high prices, and poor living conditions “remarkable,” and their rare public protests a “clarion call for freedom.
“The Cuban people are demanding their freedom from an authoritarian regime. I don’t think we’ve seen anything like this protest in a long, long time, if, quite frankly, ever,” he told reporters.
Earlier Monday in a statement, Biden said: “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. The Cuban people are bravely asserting fundamental and universal rights.”
But so far, the administration has taken no direct action to support Cubans protesting in their own country.
“I think that there’s a lot of things they can do to help us,” the man with the Cuban flag necklace continued, going on to tell Fox News that the Tampa demonstrators were also seeking “international aid” for the hard-pressed Caribbean island nation.
“I have seen the struggles that they face, and it’s really unfair — we just wanna bring awareness,” the young woman added. “Not just demand change but bring awareness because we’re all humans.
“We don’t really blame any specific government, but, just honestly, it’s about awareness so that we can all know that there’s just inhuman things going on” inside Cuba, she continued.
The man with the Cuban flag cape added again that Cubans are rebelling against Communism. “We are suffering for 62 years. It’s been a long time suffering. We need to stop this right now,” he intoned.
The Biden administration initially received pushback from Republican critics after the official Twitter account of Julie Chung, the acting assistant secretary for the State Department’s Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs, posted a comment Sunday suggesting that the protests were primarily linked to the COVID-19 pandemic.
On Monday, White House press secretary Jen Psaki sought to clarify the administration’s position, however, noting that Cuban protesters had engaged in “spontaneous expressions of people who are exhausted with the Cuban government’s economic mismanagement and repression.”
But then she, too, pivoted to the pandemic, saying that the Communist government in Havana had refused any offers of COVID assistance.
“We certainly recognize and understand that access to vaccines is one of the issues that a number of individuals on the streets is voicing concern about, but we have to determine what the mechanism would be to work with the Cuban people to get vaccines to them,” she said.
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), whose parents were born in Cuba, pushed back hard on the COVID narrative in a video posted to Twitter following Chung’s comments.
“…[W]hy 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 said. “This is about freedom. Say it!”
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