By Jessica Easthope
Unprecedented protests all over Cuba on Sunday, July 11, have elected U.S. officials speaking out. President Joe Biden called the unrest “a clarion call for freedom.”
“The United States stands firmly with the people of Cuba,” President Biden said.
The White House showed solidarity with those who are protesting government failures like ongoing food shortages, the cost of living and the handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.
People shouted “unite” and “freedom” as many clashed with police during the rare and historic protests. The country is in the midst of its worst economic crisis in decades. The pandemic brought Cuba’s tourism industry to a standstill. Now a quality of life crisis has driven protesters to call for Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel to step down.
Some lawmakers are hoping President Biden overturns Trump administration policies that tightened trade embargoes with Cuba. Others like New York Rep. Nicole Malliotakis, the daughter of a Cuban immigrant, disagree. She said President Obama’s plan to normalize relationships with Cuba would do more harm.
Malliotakis is one of 10 Cuban Americans serving in Congress.
“I hope this is the beginning of real change toward freedom and democracy on the island. President Biden, as leader of the free world, must do all he can to influence this change,” Nicole said in a statement, Monday, July 12.
Cuban Senator Marco Rubio took to Twitter and joined those calls for freedom.
“Socialism promises guaranteed food, medicine and income,” Marco said. “If you give up your freedom, when, as always, it fails to deliver, you don’t get your freedom back.”
Here in the Diocese of Brooklyn, Auxiliary Bishop Emeritus Octavio Cisneros, a native Cuban who came to the U.S. as a teenage refugee in the early 1960s without his parents, said people are fed up.
“The people are scared, the people are hungry, the people are fed up with the situation,” said Bishop Cisneros.
He said the oppression taking place in his home country is very much tied to the lack of freedoms faced by Cuban Catholics.
“Together with our prayers, we have to do something to make aware to the world community that this is going on,” he said. “That the vacation they experienced in Cuba was not reality and the reality can be seen now in what’s going on in the streets. They’ve been cut up by the socialist government.”