Thousands of Cubans took to the streets to protest the Communist regime of Miguel Díaz Canel as the island continues to suffer through the worst socio-economic conditions since the fall of the Soviet Union.
Responding to the eruption of protests, Cuban President Miguel Díaz Canel blamed U.S. sanctions for Cuba’s current conditions. “What is their origin, what is their cause? It is the blockade,” said Díaz Canel.
Read: Biden Says Communism Is a ‘Failed System’ and Cuba a ‘Failed State’
However, according to a Miami Herald, the Cuban government is restricting medicine and food going into the island nation and not the result of the U.S. embargo. The Cuban government announced it “will lift restrictions so travelers will be able to take unlimited food, medicines and hygiene products without paying customs duties.”
In the United States, hundreds of protesters took to Little Havana to show solidarity with protestors in Cuba. Miami-Dade County is home to the largest Cuban population in the United States, many of whom immigrated to the U.S. to escape Communist Cuba after the Cuban Revolution.
During a press conference, Miami Mayor Francis X. Suarez called for international intervention led by the United States “to protect the Cuban people from a bloodbath.”
“Cubans are worthy and ready to rule themselves without tyranny,” the mayor said. “It can end today, and it must end today. The implications of this moment can mean freedom for millions of people in the hemisphere from Nicaraguans and Venezuelans and so many more.”
Dems Urge Biden to Lift Trump Era Sanctions on Cuba
Removing Cuba from the blacklist, the left hailed an Obama-era policy as a “foreign policy achievement” for renewing relations with the communist-governed island, a shift from predecessors since JFK. However, before leaving office, President Trump redesignated Cuba as a “state sponsor of terrorism,” reinstalling the country with economic sanctions.
Back in March, the Biden administration was asked if they would reverse former President Trump’s sanctions on Cuba. White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters: ”A Cuba policy shift is not currently among President Biden’s top priorities.”
On Monday, sharply warning Cuba’s leaders, President Biden announced his support for what he calls Cubans’ “clarion call for freedom” following “decades of repression and economic suffering to which Cuba’s authoritarian regime has subjected them.”
“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,” Biden said in a statement released by the White House.
However, Democrats are calling on the President to lift the Trump era sanctions on Cuba. Democratic Rep. Gregory Meeks of New York, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, urged Biden to lift the sanctions.
“I commend these brave protesters and all those demanding respect for democracy anywhere around the world, including here at home, for standing up and making their voices heard. Cubans are facing profound hardship because of the health and economic impacts of COVID-19, the entrenched culture of corruption and mismanagement among Cuba’s leadership, and the strict sanctions callously imposed by the Trump Administration,” Meeks said in a statement.
“Cubans are angry, and they have every right to express their frustrations and engage in peaceful protest — basic human freedoms that must be respected, not punished,” Meeks added. “I call on President Biden to help alleviate the suffering in Cuba by rescinding the Trump era sanctions and offering additional humanitarian and vaccine assistance to the Cuban people.”
However, Cuban-American disagrees with Democrats. This year, a poll conducted earlier found that a majority of Cuban American voters “do not support a return to Obama-era engagement with the communist island.” Sixty-six percent think the “embargo should continue,” and sixty-nine percent were in “favor of keeping Cuba in the U.S. list of countries that sponsor terrorism,” a decision that the Trump administration enacted before leaving office.
The results of the survey affirm what other surveys have suggested: “That rather than becoming more open to the idea of loosening U.S. restrictions with Cuba, Cuban Americans have increasingly dug in to keeping the island closed off” said Fernand Amandi, a Democratic pollster and the President of Bendixen & Amandi International, which has been tracking the Cuban community for over 45 years.
Republicans Back Cuban’s Call for Change in Government
GOP Senator Ted Cruz and other Congressional Republicans voiced their support for the thousands of Cubans protesting against the Communist regime. Republicans are calling upon the Biden Administration to support Cubans’ call for change in government.
Senator Cruz and Senator Rubio, both Cuban-Americans, tweeted:
The Communist Cuban regime will be consigned to the dustbin of history. It has brutalized & denied freedom to generations of Cubans, and forced my family & so many others to flee.
The American people stand squarely with the men & women of Cuba and their noble fight for liberty. https://t.co/09hdGQVJLh
— Ted Cruz (@tedcruz) July 11, 2021
Protests in #Cuba aren’t simply about “shortages”
Socialism promises guaranteed food,medicine & income if you give up your freedom
When, as always, it fails to deliver you don’t get your freedom back
That’s why the protestors are chanting “Libertad” #SoSCuba #PatriaYVida
— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) July 12, 2021
Why this matters
Democrats’ call for lifting the Trump-era embargo on the island nation is viewed unfavorably by Cuban-Americans in Florida. Lifting the embargo does not benefit the Cuban people seeking freedom and liberty but rather the Communist government.
Unlike other Hispanic registered voters in the United States, most Cuban-Americans identify as Republican. However, they were trending towards Democrats under President Obama but snapped back to the right and voted for Trump. Other Hispanic voters from Nicaragua, Venezuela, and Colombia have trended toward the right as well.
In 2016, 54 percent of Cuban-Americans in Florida voted for Donald Trump, while 62 percent backed Trump in 2020 compared to 45 percent who had a favorable opinion of Biden.
The uprising in Cuba poses a potential political ‘gift’ for President Biden if handled correctly. “The Biden administration has itself a political gift from the gods,” said Fernand Amandi. “But if he takes a more passive wait-and-see, behind-the-scenes approach,” Amandi added, “I think it’ll be both a policy and a political opportunity lost that may cement some of the negative impressions around the Democratic Party.” However, this would require the President to balance the demands from the far-left position on Cuba and the hard-line stance Cuban-Americans support.
This administration’s cozy nature and warm embrace towards the socialist wing of his party could prove problematic for Democrats improving gains with Cuban-Americans as ‘socialism’ has shown to be acidic with this voter bloc which could see the swing state of Florida move comfortably towards Republicans in 2022 and 2024.
Michael Price is a Founder and editor for ThinkCivics. He has been writing about politics, government, and culture for over a decade. He has a BA in Political Science and an Masters in Public Administration.