Latest U.S. Reactions to Ongoing Protests in Cuba

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After a week of protests in Cuba and in Cuban-American neighborhoods in the United States, the U.S. is reviewing its policy towards Cuba.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki called communism in Cuba a "failed ideology" that was responsible for the lack of access to economic opportunity, medical supplies and COVID-19 vaccines in the country.

"Communism is a failed ideology," she said. "It has failed the people of Cuba. They deserve freedom, they deserve a government that supports them."

She said the administration is looking for ways to support the Cuban people without padding "the pocket of the corrupt authoritarian regime."

The Cuban government announced it will temporarily lift restrictions on the amount of food and medicine that travelers can bring into the country.

However, internet access is still down. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis wrote a letter to Biden urging him to restore internet access in Cuba after President Miguel Díaz-Canel shut it off.

"Internet access for the Cuban people is of critical importance as they stand up against the repressive Communist government," he said.

Following this letter, a senior Biden administration officials said the White House was "deeply concerned" about the internet restrictions and called on Cuban leaders to restore access.

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell called out the "socialist tyranny" in Cuba and the "naive Americans" who "still buy the propaganda that Cuba is a socialist paradise."

The U.S. remains split over how to respond, with Democratic Florida state Sen. Annette Taddeo arguing this could be Cuba's 'tear down this wall' moment - equal to that of the collapse of Communist control in East Germany. Others, including left-leaning Democrats such as Bernie Sanders, feel President Joe Biden should take a more lenient stance similar to his ally and predecessor Barack Obama.

The Biden Administration has so far chosen to maintain the position of former President Donald Trump's confrontational stance on Venezuela and China - two of Cuba's closest allies - by expressing full support for the protesters.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki dismissed claims that the U.S. embargo on Cuba was responsible for supply shortages.

During a press briefing Wednesday, Psaki said the U.S. provides "a great deal" of assistance to Cuba and that the protests were reactions to the "economic mismanagement and the repression" of the Cuban government.

Cuba Protests New York
A men shouts for a parlarte to ask for help from Cuban protesters in Union Square Park on July 14, 2021 in New York City. A small group of people gathered in Union Square Park in support of the Cuban people who have been protesting against the communist regime due to food shortages and the worsening of the economic crisis that has been exasperated by the coronavirus pandemic. Pablo Monsalve/VIEWpress via Getty Images

White House is "deeply concerned" about internet restrictions in Cuba

The White House is "deeply concerned" over the internet restriction in Cuba, Forrest Saunders reported.

"We call on Cuba's leaders to reinstate all Internet and telecommunications services," a senior White House official told Saunders. "The free and open exchange of information and ideas is important to all people."

In response-- a senior admin official tells me the White House is "deeply concerned" over internet restrictions: "We call on Cuba's leaders to reinstate all Internet and telecommunications services. The free and open exchange of information and ideas is important to all people." https://t.co/KHKlwCunWl

— Forrest Saunders (@FBSaunders) July 15, 2021

This response comes after Florida Governor Ron DeSantis called on President Joe Biden to "immediately" take steps to restore internet access for the Cuban people.

Julie Chung, the acting assistant secretary for the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs, called on the Cuban government to "let the people be heard."

"By shutting down the internet, the Cuban government is hiding its actions from the world...right in front of our eyes," she wrote in a tweet Thursday. "The Cuban people have raised their voices for freedom and dignity."

By shutting down the internet, the Cuban government is hiding its actions from the world...right in front of our eyes.

The Cuban people have raised their voices for freedom and dignity.

Restore internet connectivity and let the people be heard.

— Julie Chung (@WHAAsstSecty) July 15, 2021

Jen Psaki calls communism "a failed ideology"

During a press briefing Thursday afternoon, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki called communism in Cuba a "failed ideology."

Psaki reiterated that the people in Cuba are protesting the mishandling of their government.

"Communism is a failed ideology," she said. "It has failed the people of Cuba. They deserve freedom, they deserve a government that supports them."

She said this failed ideology of the "authoritarian regime" has repressed the Cuban people and led to a lack of access to economic opportunity, medical supplies and COVID-19 vaccines.

.@PressSec on Cuba: "Communism is a failed ideology and we certainly believe that." pic.twitter.com/eb5Sl9Fn0O

— CSPAN (@cspan) July 15, 2021

Psaki added that President Joe Biden stands with the Cuban people in their call for liberation and that the U.S. Cuban policy is currently under review.

"One of the big factors ensure not doing anything to pad the pocket of the corrupt authoritarian regime," she said. "We are looking how we can help in a humanitarian way, how we can help support voices of Cuban people."

Mitch McConnell calls out "socialist tyranny" in Cuba

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell spoke on the Senate floor Thursday about the Cuban protesters who've had enough of decades of "socialist tyranny."

"They've had enough of a regime that's stolen their dreams for decades, they've had enough of its stranglehold on information and on prosperity, they've had enough of its intimidation and its repression," McConnell said.

The brave men and women taking to the streets in Cuba are demanding freedoms they’ve been denied all their lives. From Miami to Louisville, Cuban Americans are keeping the faith with brave protestors demanding an end to the failed regime's injustices. They deserve our support. pic.twitter.com/fzSamCO7SQ

— Leader McConnell (@LeaderMcConnell) July 15, 2021

McConnell noted that the protest in Havana "should represent a huge turning point" in the Cuban people's movement towards freedom.

He also called out "naive Americans" who believe the "propaganda" of Cuba's communist ideology.

"Some naive Americans on the left seem intent on once again running interference for the Cuban regime," McConnell said. "They still buy the propaganda that Cuba is a socialist paradise, with a model health care and education system that we should actually emulate."

Cuba will lift customs restrictions on food and medicine

Cuba announced Wednesday that it was temporarily lifting restrictions on the amount of food and medicine that travelers can bring into the country.

This move comes as an apparent concession to one of the many demands of the anti-government protestors.

During a roundtable with President Miguel Diaz-Canel on state television, Cuban Prime Minister Manuel Marrero said the restrictions would be lifted Monday until the end of the year.

"It was a demand made by many travelers and it was necessary to take this decision," Marrero said.

Journalist and government-critic Yoani Sanchez was not impressed with the concessions.

"We do not want crumbs, we want freedom, and we want it now," she tweeted. "The streets have spoken: we are not afraid."

No queremos migajas, queremos libertad y la queremos yaaaaaaaaa. Las calles hablaron: No tenemos miedo, Patria y Vida, Los vamos a sacar #SOSCuba #11JCuba #CorredorHumanitario pic.twitter.com/IWCnKQx8M4

— Yoani Sánchez 🇨🇺 (@yoanisanchez) July 14, 2021

Rapper Pitbull Calls on Jeff Bezos to Provide Aid in Cuba

Cuban-American rapper Pitbull released a video on Twitter Wednesday expressing his frustration with the situation in Cuba.

He called this a "world event" about saving lives, unity and taking action.

He said he was frustrated because as a Cuban-American with a large platform, he cannot send Cubans the supplies they need nor "what they deserve, which is freedom."

Pitbull, whose real name is Armando Christian Pérez, called on world businesses and specifically Amazon founder Jeff Bezos to help.

And while politicians figure out their plan, "all we can do is raise awareness," he said.

"We need to get creative, we need to figure out solutions while they're losing their lives over there, literally, for something we wake up every day and appreciate, which is freedom," he said.

Editor's Note: The video below contains expletives that may be upsetting to some readers.

Ron DeSantis Asks Biden to Restore Internet in Cuba

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis wrote a letter to President Joe Biden urging him to restore internet access for the people of Cuba.

After days of protest, DeSantis said the "tyrannical regime" of President Miguel Díaz-Canel shut off internet access, cutting off the ability for Cuban to communicate with each other.

"Equally as important, the world has also lost the ability to see what is happening on the ground as the Cuban people rise in support of freedom," he said.

I urge President Biden to assist in providing internet access to the people of Cuba standing up against communist oppression and demanding a voice after decades of suffering under a cruel dictatorship.https://t.co/fjSKNxuchW pic.twitter.com/br4iPHZ4k1

— Ron DeSantis (@GovRonDeSantis) July 14, 2021

DeSantis said this request is not unprecedented, as the U.S. broadcast radio in the Soviet Union during the Cold War. He asks Biden to "act immediately" to set up means that will send information and create "a means for the Cuban people to speak to the world."

"Internet access for the Cuban people is of critical importance as they stand up against the repressive Communist government," he said. "In the hands of these brave individuals, such access may be the key to finally bringing democracy to the island."

Jen Psaki dismisses claims that the U.S. is to blame for the protests in Cuba

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki dismissed Cuban president Miguel Diaz-Canel's claims that the United States was to blame for the mass protests in Cuba during a press briefing Wednesday.

Diaz-Canel had previously said that the U.S. embargo on Cuba was responsible for the medicine and other supply shortages.

"That's simply inaccurate in terms of the facts that are stated," Psaki told reporters. She added that the U.S. has provided "a great deal" of assistance to Cuba.

She said that the embargo allows the U.S. "regularly" authorizes the export of agricultural products, medicine, medical equipment and humanitarian goods to Cuba.

In the last year alone, Psaki said, the U.S. exported $176 million of goods to Cuba.

"There's every indication that yesterday's protests were reactions of the people in Cuba to exhaustion of the governance of the — of the leaders in the state, the economic mismanagement, and the repression that we're seeing take place against the people of the country," she said.

Psaki also reiterated that the U.S. policy toward Cuba rests on support for democracy and human rights and the notion that "Americans, especially Cuban Americans, are the best ambassadors for freedom and prosperity in Cuba."

This briefing comes two days after President Joe Biden praised Cuban protestors for "bravely asserting fundamental and universal rights" and called on the Cuban government to "hear their people and serve their needs at this vital moment rather than enriching themselves."

"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," Biden said in a statement.

In pictures: Cuba protesters in Miami

Protesters in Miami demonstrating against Cuban violence
Protester runs with Cuban flag on highway
Miami protesters block off major highway
Protesters cheer during demonstration against Cuban regime
Protesters in Miami demonstrated against Cuban violence
Protesters in Miami demonstrated against Cuban violence
Protesters in Miami demonstrated against Cuban violence
Protesters in Miami demonstrated against Cuban violence
Protesters wearing Cuba Libre t-shirt raise fists

How have Republicans reacted to the Cuba protests?

The GOP is largely united behind supporting anti-government protests in Cuba.

Cuban-American Senator Marco Rubio met with White House officials on Wednesday to discuss the situation, calling on the Biden Administration to "lead the effort to gain approval for a strong condemnation" of the regime by international organizations, including the Human Rights Commission and the United Nations.

After our meeting with @WhiteHouse yesterday we wrote a follow up to @Potus on 4 specific actions on #Cuba #SOSCubaLibre

pic.twitter.com/hQcXWfhawG

— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) July 15, 2021

In a tweet, he claimed Congress is unwilling to condemn the regime because "American socialists don't want to acknowledge the evil, suffering, and oppression that Cuban socialists are imposing on the people."

The reason socialists in Congress are unwilling to condemn the Cuban regime?

The Cuban government is a socialist dictatorship and American socialists don't want to acknowledge the evil, suffering, and oppression that Cuban socialists are imposing on the people. pic.twitter.com/UgCIkpWli8

— Ted Cruz (@tedcruz) July 14, 2021

BLM backs Cuban protesters and calls on Biden to remove 'cruel' embargo

Black Lives Matter has condemned the embargo on Cuba as "cruel" and "inhumane" and called on the Biden Administration to lift the measures with immediate effect.

"Black Lives Matter condemns the U.S. federal government's inhumane treatment of Cubans, and urges it to immediately lift the economic embargo."

In a post on its Instagram page, the organisation praised the Cuban regime for its historic "solidarity with oppressed peoples of African descent".

Where do Democrats stand on Cuba?

The Democrats remain split over how to respond to the most recent protests.

More left-leaning politicians, including Bernie Sanders, have criticized the Biden Administration for supporting the protests and believe a lighter touch is only fair. Sanders also called on the U.S. to lift its embargo on the country which he claims has "only hurt" Cubans.

All people have the right to protest and to live in a democratic society. I call on the Cuban government to respect opposition rights and refrain from violence. It’s also long past time to end the unilateral U.S. embargo on Cuba, which has only hurt, not helped, the Cuban people.

— Bernie Sanders (@SenSanders) July 13, 2021

But those more hardline anti-communist campaigners in the party, including Florida state Sen. Annette Taddeo, believe now is the time to increase pressure on the country. Taddeo yesterday called on President Biden to make a speech in Miami, suggesting it could be Cuba's 'tear down this wall' moment similar to the end of communist control in East Germany.

Read more on this here: Democrats Urge Biden to Turn Cuba Crisis Into 'Tear Down This Wall' Moment With Miami Trip

Good morning and welcome to Newsweek's liveblog

The fallout from anti-government protests in Cuba continues into Thursday, with up to 100 demonstrators now missing and

Meanwhile, U.S. politicians and campaigners are split over how to respond to the unrest - should President Biden continue to express support for the protests - a tactic favored by Donald Trump - or should his administration take a softer approach like Barack Obama?

Stick with Newsweek for all the latest updates through Thursday.