On Sunday evening, mass protests erupted across Cuba, a nation where there is no right to free speech or assembly. The Cuban government issued a swift rebuke, promising violence in the streets should the activism continue, while in the U.S., the Biden administration blamed the COVID-19 pandemic even as the most notorious far-left socialist politicians, including Bernie Sanders, remained silent.
“It is the most massive popular demonstration to protest the government that we have experienced in Cuba since ’59,” Carolina Barrero told the New York Times via text message on Sunday as her nation saw entirely unprecedented protests to the amazement of the global community.
Barrero described the mobilization as “spontaneous, frontal, and forceful.”
The reaction from the Cuban government has been equally as forceful, with several videos showing the police assaulting demonstrators and forcing them into police vehicles.
“We are prepared to do anything,” Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel declared during a national address, in which he also accused the U.S. government of paying protesters. “We will be battling in the streets…. We are calling on all the revolutionaries in the country, all the Communists, to hit the streets wherever there is an effort to produce these provocations.”
In the U.S., prominent Florida leaders voiced their opposition to the Cuban regime and their support for the protesters.
“Florida supports the people of Cuba as they take to the streets against the tyrannical regime in Havana,” Republican Governor Ron DeSantis wrote on Twitter. “The Cuban dictatorship has repressed the people of Cuba for decades & is now trying to silence those who have the courage to speak out against its disastrous policies.”
Florida supports the people of Cuba as they take to the streets against the tyrannical regime in Havana. The Cuban dictatorship has repressed the people of Cuba for decades & is now trying to silence those who have the courage to speak out against its disastrous policies#SOSCuba pic.twitter.com/H71EYoKdUZ
— Ron DeSantis (@GovRonDeSantis) July 11, 2021
Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., whose parents had left Cuba for the United States in 1956 prior to the rise of communist dictator Fidel Castro, sent out a flurry of tweets encouraging the protesters and demanding action and protection. “I am asking @POTUS @SecBlinken to call on members of the Cuban military to not fire on their own people,” he wrote. “The incompetent communist party of #Cuba cannot feed or protect the people from the virus. Now those in the military must defend the people not the communist party.”
The incompetent communist party of #Cuba cannot feed or protect the people from the virus.
Now those in the military must defend the people not the communist party.
— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) July 11, 2021
Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., who previously served as governor of Florida, also weighed in, writing on Twitter, “The courageous people of Cuba took to the streets determined to regain their freedom and demand the end of the dictatorship. “@RaulCastro_Ruz & @DiazCanelB the message is clear: The people of Cuba are not afraid, your time is up!”
The Biden administration, however, was criticized for appearing to characterize the demonstrations as merely a response to the COVID pandemic, despite the reports out of the country that consistently depict chants of “freedom” and “down with the dictatorship,” as well as cries of “Cuba does not belong to you” outside a Cuban Communist Party building.
Julie Chung, an assistant secretary for the U.S. Department of State, tweeted 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.”
Peaceful protests are growing in #Cuba as the Cuban people exercise their right to peaceful assembly to express concern about rising COVID cases/deaths & medicine shortages. We commend the numerous efforts of the Cuban people mobilizing donations to help neighbors in need.
— Julie Chung (@WHAAsstSecty) July 11, 2021
The official White House statement from the Biden administration, while more overtly pro-freedom than Chung’s statement, notably described the protesters as calling for “freedom and relief from…the pandemic.”
The statement declared, “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.”
President Joe Biden also said he is going on to call on the Cuban government “to hear their people and serve their needs at this vital moment rather than enriching themselves.”
The hashtags #SOSCuba and #PatriaYVida trended on Twitter on Sunday evening, yet the social network, as well as the Biden administration, framed the mass movement as a response to the COVID-19 outbreak.
Meanwhile, the silence as of Monday afternoon from prominent self-professing Democratic Socialists, such as Sen. Sanders and Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., and Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., did not escape the notice of their vocal critics. None of them had offered any support to the protesters and the lawmakers all failed to respond to a request from Fox News for comment.
The Cuban people are protesting against a notoriously tyrannical government that has executed political dissidents, jailed artists and activists, continues to quarantine AIDS patients, and severely restricts emigration from the island to the point that escapees have risked their lives on homemade rafts for decades just to get out.
Cuban Americans are well-known for their vocal and enthusiastic support of American-style liberty, having either personally escaped the dictatorship or been raised by those who fled after their personal property and rights were stripped from them at the hands of the Cuban Revolutionaries.
Yet we’re expected to believe that, after all these years and such limited freedom and so few resources, it was the pandemic that prompted the Cuban people to rise up?
If that is the case, one has to wonder: Why didn’t the Russians rise up in mass and attempt to throw off the shackles of the communists during the Spanish flu of 1918-20, which infected more than 500 million and killed up to 100 million people worldwide, or the Romanians, the Poles, or other Soviet bloc peoples during the Asian flu epidemic of 1957-58 or the Vietnamese, the Chinese, or the North Koreans during the global outbreak of Hong Kong flu in 1968-69? And did the Poles, Czechs, East Germans, Romanians, and others living in Eastern bloc countries only stand up to their communist overlords in the 1980s because of AIDS?
No, the human spirit yearns to be free for the sake of being free — and so it is with the Cuban people. Americans must wholeheartedly support their Cuban neighbors (as well as those struggling in Hong Kong and other places around the world) in their quest to exercise their God-given rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. And we should pray incessantly that God will grant them divine protection as they struggle against a tyrannical regime — even as we face increasing threats to our own freedom here at home.