Fed up with repression and economic deprivation, thousands of people took to the streets of Cuba this month shouting such slogans as “Liberty,” “Unity,” and “Homeland and Life,” and calling for Cuba’s President Miguel Díaz-Canel to step down. The peaceful protests, which began on July 11, span the island from Havana to Santiago and are the largest demonstrations against the government in decades.
President Joe Biden expressed solidarity with the Cuban people “demanding their freedom from an authoritarian regime,” and he called on the Havana government “to refrain from violence or attempts to silence the voice of the people of Cuba.” That call went unheeded, as protesters were met with violence, including beatings and barrages of teargas. According to independent media, more than 5,000 demonstrators are detained or under investigation as of July 13, among them activists and journalists; and the Internet has been shut down intermittently.
Instead of listening to the demands of the Cuban people for their universal human rights, and looking to his own regime’s policies, Cuban President Diaz-Canel blamed the United States for Cuba’s economic woes and social unrest.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken adamantly rejected Diaz-Canel’s attempt to avoid responsibility.
“It would be a grievous mistake for the Cuban regime to interpret what is happening in dozens of towns and cities across the island as the result or product of anything the United States has done,” Mr. Blinken said. “It would be a grievous mistake because it would show that they simply are not hearing the voices and will of the Cuban people –- people deeply, deeply, deeply tired of the repression that has gone on for far too long, tired of the mismanagement of the Cuban economy, tired of the lack of adequate food, and of course inadequate response to the COVID pandemic.”
“The Biden-Harris administration stands by the Cuban people and people around the world who demand their human rights and who expect governments to listen to and serve them rather than silence them,” Secretary Blinken declared. “Peaceful protesters are not criminals, and we join partners across the hemisphere and around the world in urging the Cuban regime to respect the rights of the Cuban people to determine their own future, something they have been denied for far too long.”