A Univisión report Monday on President Joe Biden’s tepid response to the ongoing protests against communism in Cuba accused Biden of having little interest in the topic, noting his administration “openly admitted” to not prioritizing the island.
Univisión’s report focused on the outpouring of support from Cuban-Americans and others within the United States for the protests in the country, which began on Sunday and attracted thousands of people to every major city on the island. Journalists managed to document protests in at least 20 municipalities nationwide stretching from far-west Pinar del Rio to Santiago de Cuba, the eastern capital of Oriente province.
The marches, the largest wave of a movement against communism that has organized weekly protests for nearly two decades, featured protesters walking peacefully chanting slogans against the 62-year-old communist regime. “Freedom!” was a common chant nationwide, as well insults against Miguel Díaz-Canel, the figurehead “president” of the Castro regime. Some protesters also waved American flags or wore clothes emblazoned with the symbol of freedom.
Díaz-Canel responded to the protests by urging “revolutionaries” to take the streets and violently assault unarmed protesters in a speech on Sunday. Cuban authorities blocked access to the internet nearly nationwide, preventing the deluge of violent imagery that surfaced on Sunday from repeating on Monday. As of Tuesday, however, Cubans are slowly starting to find ways to share footage of the island, revealing egregious human rights abuses on the part of the Communist Party like public beatings and police shooting dissidents dead in broad daylight.
Univisión initially spoke to a group of Cuban-American protesters in Washington, D.C., who said they sought “urgent military interventions” to save their loved ones. The report noted that such support is unlikely, though Biden issued a statement nominally extending support to the Cuban people.
“The United States calls on the Cuban regime to hear their people and serve their needs at this vital moment instead of enriching themselves,” Biden’s statement read in part. “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 statement notably omitted the fact that Cuba’s regime is communist, that the protesters actively chanted slogans against communism and socialism, and reframed the protests as being about “economic suffering.”
Biden’s only concrete move on Cuba on Monday was the lifting of sanctions on Venezuela’s oil industry. Venezuela is a colony state of Cuba’s, largely run by Cuban state security agents, and the Communist regime has largely subsisted on Venezuelan oil in the aftermath of the rise of socialist dictator Hugo Chávez.
“Despite the support that President Biden is offering to the people of Cuba today, this White House has openly admitted that the issue of the island is not a priority for this government,” Univisión White House correspondent noted in the report, as documented by the Media Research Center:
DEVASTATING close to today's @UniNoticias reporting on #SOSCubaLibre by @janrodrigueztv: "…this WH has openly admitted that the (Cuban) issue is not a priority for this Administration". pic.twitter.com/4NZMJ1WC7G
— Jorge Bonilla (@BonillaJL) July 12, 2021
Rodriguez added in a note on her Twitter account a quote from White House press secretary Jen Psaki stating, “I can’t saw at what priority level Cuba is in.” Elsewhere in Monday’s press conference, Psaki made the bizarre claim that Cubans chanting the word “freedom” were actually demanding “freedom from COVID” [Chinese coronavirus].
Rodriguez noted Psaki had previously dismissed Cuba as not a priority at all.
“A Cuba policy shift is not currently among President Biden’s top priorities,” Psaki told reporters in March.
As a presidential candidate last year, Biden attacked President Donald Trump on multiple occasions for his anti-communist policies, particularly increased sanctions on human rights violators on the island and support for the Cuban exile community at home. Trump also restored Cuba to the State Department’s State Sponsors of Terrorism list in response to Havana’s support of Marxist terrorist groups like the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and Islamist groups like Hezbollah.
Biden served as vice president under Barack Obama, who all but eliminated the Cuban embargo, leading to record levels of repression of peaceful dissidents.
“The administration’s approach is not working. Cuba is no closer to freedom and democracy than it was four years ago,” Biden said in October 2020. Biden promised to help “empower the Cuban people to determine their own future,” without elaborating.
In practice, Biden has taken no significant action on Cuba, meaning the Trump policies largely remain in place. A significant number of political observers note the scale of the protests erupting this week is much larger than the usual protests and the regime appears unable to quell them, suggesting Cuba may be closer to freedom as a result of Trump’s policies than it was before the policies were implemented.
Protests reportedly continued on the island on Tuesday. Most of the information currently leaving the country is from its largest cities — Havana and Santiago — but limited communication between Cubans on the island and those in the United States suggests that Camagüey, Mayabeque, Holguín, and other central areas also remain nodes of unrest.