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Biden Admin Calls for 'Calm' as Cubans Rise Up Against Oppressive Communist Regime

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Thousands of protestors across Cuba marched in an unprecedented demonstration of discontent Sunday against the ruling Communist government.

Cuba has never seen such an uprising against the ruling Communist Party of Cuba in over 30 years, The New York Times reported.

The people were lashing out against the ruling Communists over food shortages, rising prices and COVID-19 vaccine shortages, according to The Independent.

“The people are dying of hunger!” one woman chanted in an Artemisa province demonstration, according to footage uploaded on Facebook. “Our children are dying of hunger!”

The voice of the people chanting “Libertad!,” which translates to “Liberty!,” and shouts of “We are not afraid!” echoed on the streets of Cuba’s capital city Havana. Some of the protestors were waving the American flag as they shouted for freedom.

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In what seemed to be a rebuke of Fidel Castro’s “Patria O Muerte (Homeland or Death)” slogan, some of the protestors chanted “¡Patria y Vida! (Homeland and Life!)”

Videos from Bejucal, south of Havana, show citizens shouting for freedom as townspeople bring out a statue of “Our Lady of Charity (Virgen de la Caridad del Cobre)” from a local place of worship. Virgen de la Caridad del Cobre is a name given to Mary, the mother of Jesus, who is considered the country’s Patroness.

The display of the statue during the protests was a powerful symbol in a country known for restricting religious practice after the Communist seizure of power in 1959.

The COVID-19 pandemic which stopped vital tourism revenue from flowing into the country was the straw that broke the camel’s back after years of Communist repression, The Times reported.

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The Communist government of the country on Sunday blamed the United States for the island country’s economic situation.

“Cubans know perfectly well that the government of the United States is principally responsible for Cuba’s current situation,” Cuba’s foreign ministry said in a Twitter post. “Cuba and its streets belong to the revolutionaries.”

Cuba’s President Miguel Díaz-Canel claimed, without providing evidence, “a group of counterrevolutionary people, mercenaries” funded by the U.S. government “set up this type of demonstration, at a time when we have to focus on how we care for those who are suffering.”

“We are ready for everything. We will be in the streets fighting. We are calling on communists and revolutionaries to go to the street and confront the protests today and everyday,” Díaz-Canel said.

Some of the demonstrators hurled stones at police officers, The Associated Press reported.

AP journalists saw police and individuals donning civilian clothes take over 20 people away before the march dispersed.

“The people came out to express themselves freely, and they are repressing and beating them,” Rev. Jorge Luis Gil, a Roman Catholic priest, told the AP.

When several people took out their smartphones to broadcast the march and the police response, the Communist regime responded by shutting down internet connectivity.

Roughly 300 pro-Communist marchers then came, bearing huge Cuban flags. They were shouting pro-Fidel Castro and pro-Communist revolution slogans. Some of those demonstrators attacked an AP videojournalist, destroying his camera. Police attacked another AP photojournalist, the outlet reported.

The Biden administration’s Acting Assistant Secretary for the State Department’s Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs Julie Chung was slammed by critics on social media for tying the protests to COVID-19.

“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,” Chung wrote in a Sunday post on Twitter.

According to Chung’s Twitter bio, posts expressing her viewpoint must be signed with her initials “JC.” However, this post did not have her initials, leaving netizens to wonder if she was expressing her personal opinion or that of the Biden administration.

Fox News‘ request for clarification was not immediately answered by the Department of State.

“People in #Cuba are protesting 62 years of socialism, lies, tyranny & misery not ‘expressing concern about rising COVID cases/deaths’,” Republican Florida Senator Marco Rubio wrote in a Twitter post calling Chung’s tweet “ridiculous.”

“Why is it so hard for @potus & the people in his administration to say that?” Rubio asked.

Chung then put out another Twitter post stating “We are deeply concerned by ‘calls to combat’ in #Cuba. We stand by the Cuban people’s right for peaceful assembly. We call for calm and condemn any violence,” without specifying who is making the “calls to combat.”

Chung was then asked by a Twitter user, “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.”

It took a day since the protests began for U.S. President Joe Biden, a Democrat, to gather the courage to finally issue a statement on the protests.

“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,” a White House news release stated.

“The Cuban people are bravely asserting fundamental and universal rights. Those rights, including the right of peaceful protest and the right to freely determine their own future, must be respected. The United States calls on the Cuban regime to hear their people and serve their needs at this vital moment rather than enriching themselves.”

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Andrew Jose is a freelance reporter covering security, U.S. politics, and foreign policy, among other beats. He has bylines in several outlets, notably the Daily Caller, Jewish News Syndicate, and the Times of Israel.
Andrew Jose is a freelance reporter covering security, U.S. politics, and foreign policy, among other beats. He has bylines in several outlets, notably the Daily Caller, Jewish News Syndicate, and the Times of Israel. Speak to Andrew securely via Follow Andrew on Twitter: @realAndrewJose
Georgetown University, School of Foreign Service
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