Biden calls on Cuban regime to 'hear their people and serve their needs' amid rare 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,” Biden said in a statement.

He continued, “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.”

White House officials are closely monitoring the protests in the country, 90 miles from the US, with national security adviser Jake Sullivan warning against targeting the peaceful protesters.

Thousands of Cubans took to the streets on Sunday to protest a lack of food and medicine as the country undergoes a grave economic crisis aggravated by the Covid-19 pandemic and US sanctions.

Many chanted for “freedom” and called for Díaz-Canel to step down, Reuters reported. Multiple protesters were arrested by police, who used tear gas to break up some demonstrations.

In nationally televised remarks Sunday, Díaz-Canel placed blame for the economic conditions on sanctions from the US, which Biden did not address in his statement. The Trump administration enacted some of the toughest economic measures against Cuba in decades, and so far, the Biden administration has yet to lift them.

“The U.S. supports freedom of expression and assembly across Cuba, and would strongly condemn any violence or targeting of peaceful protesters who are exercising their universal rights,” Sullivan tweeted Sunday night.