President Joe Biden is arguably the most far-left personage to ever take the oath of office, so when the people of Cuba stunned the free world last month by holding significant nationwide protests for the first time in a generation, he found himself in quite a pickle.
During the course of the 2020 Democratic primaries, Biden allowed his platform to be pushed much further to the left than it had been at the onset of a race in which he was initially viewed as the safe, familiar, moderate establishment candidate.
He went into office with an environmental agenda shaped by socialist darling Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, a narrative on systemic racism shaped by Black Lives Matter and economic policies shaped by Sens. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts.
Biden also brought along with him to the executive branch California Sen. Kamala Harris, who had the most progressive voting record in the history of Congress’ upper chamber.
Yet the Cuban protests seem to have forced Biden’s hand.
Republicans are using this to their advantage politically, a fact that is all the more damaging to Biden as he flounders on acting on any substantial response to the human rights atrocities being committed less than 100 miles from the American state of Florida.
Nearly a month after the demonstrations took the island nation by storm, reports are still filtering out to the rest of the world of potentially thousands of Cubans being detained without due process or who just “disappeared” completely, something that has happened to an untold number of citizens of Marxist regimes over the last century.
According to the human rights organization Prisoners Defenders, between 2,000 to 8,000 individuals have been detained by law enforcement either during or following the protests across Cuba in what the group described as a “tragic” month for the Cuban people, CubaNet reported.
The organization was only able to tally 272 official political prisoners of the state and believes that the rest are being held without due process or charges being filed. Prisoners Defenders also suspects that many are being tortured by state police.
Last week, the Cuban outlet 14 y Medio reported that dissident Sadiel González was taken from his home by police who assured him that if he had “nothing to hide, come with us, and we’ll have a conversation,” according to a translated version of the article.
González, who uploaded videos of the Jul. 11 protests to Facebook last month, was taken over a week ago, and as of Tuesday, his family had not heard from him and no charges had been filed against him.
There was a post to his Facebook account on Sunday that boldly declared that “the people should not fear the government, the government should fear the people,” that “ideas are bulletproof” and that if he died today, it would be so that tomorrow he would not have to live on his knees.
There are no details as to his detention and release, however.
Meanwhile, Cuban journalist Luz Escobar, who wrote the 14 y Medio article about González’s arrest, received a chilling visit the day after her article was published from someone she described as a state security agent who refused to identify himself to her but advised she remain in her home because “there’s COVID outside.”
#4deAgosto si! De nuevo 😡han llegado a los bajos de mi edificio los enviados de la Seguridad del Estado para impedirme salir. Aquí pueden escuchar cómo se niega a identificarse y su expresión de “afuera hay covid”. De nuevo todo ilegal y arbitrario. #SosCuba #InformarNoEsDelito pic.twitter.com/pNMbJUVqHS
— Luz Escobar #SOScuba🇨🇺 (@Luz_Cuba) August 4, 2021
As the Cuban government’s storm troopers appear to be rounding up and illegally detaining potentially thousands of citizens — some of who may not even have participated in the protests, by some accounts — Cuban-Americans have been loudly exercising their First Amendment rights in the land where such liberties are still protected.
The Cuban-Americans who showed up in force to vote for Trump and those who voted for Biden alike are frustrated at the weak response from the current administration.
While Biden and other administration officials were criticized for seeming to portray the Cuban protests as mostly a reaction to the pandemic, in the weeks since, the president has done little else.
Other than issuing a few sanctions of Cuban state officials and meeting with a bipartisan group of concerned Cuban-Americans, Biden has failed to act, and folks are taking notice.
“I was expecting something more forceful than just sanctioning Cuban officials who don’t travel to the U.S. anyway,” Belkis Gutiérrez, who fled Cuba decades ago and supported Biden for president, told NBC News.
The outlet rightly and apparently sympathetically noted that the Biden administration is in a “tricky” situation with Cuba.
“The Cuba sanctions program is already the most comprehensive one administered by the U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control, giving Biden little room for additional sanctions. Since the protests, Biden’s administration has sanctioned three Cuban officials and two entities it says were involved in the crackdown — the Cuban National Revolutionary Police and an elite brigade of government forces known as the ‘Black Berets,'” NBC reported.
These sanctions, the network notes, are “largely symbolic.” Biden has also kept Cuba on a list of nations that haven’t fully cooperated with the U.S. war on terror, which NBC says surprised many, “including those in Cuba’s government.”
Yet Democrats and Republicans alike want Biden to do more. While the Republicans “have turned Cuba pandering into a science,” as the executive director of the Cuba Study Group told NBC, highlighting the Biden administration’s failures with their passionate rebuke of the socialist regime, Democrats can see the Cuban people are clearly suffering and oppressed. And they probably also don’t want Biden to prove Republicans right about today’s Democratic Party by standing by as he ignores the continued oppression of the Cuban people.
Some have called for the U.S. to find new means of providing internet access to the insulated island, where the government has control over the one internet service provider. Others are calling for flat-out military intervention, although of course, Americans on both sides of the aisle are hesitant these days to support such action.
Whatever it is that might be most effective at helping the Cuban people, Biden’s empty sanctions and even emptier denunciations of the authoritarian regime are no substitute for real, substantial action, and considering how close the island is to our own nation and how many of its refugees and ex-pats reside on our shores, this is a disgrace to the spirit of American freedom Biden seems to have already forsaken.
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