Protesters gathering in support of human rights in Cuba in Washington, DC, lamented that President Joe Biden has taken little to no action after thousands-strong protests rocked the communist nation on July 11.
Cuban-Americans, joined by human rights activists and members of Congress, gathered at the U.S. Capitol on Tuesday and called on the Biden Administration to act in the face of brutal communist repression following the July 11 protests. Activists and Republican lawmakers spoke at the protest, expressing solidarity and laying out goals they hope to see the president fulfill, including restoring internet access to the island. The Castro regime has blocked access to the internet since videos of peaceful protests – and violent attacks on protesters – began circulating this month.
“What’s the very first thing that brutal dictators around the world do as soon as people start to see what’s taking place inside their regimes? They shut down connectivity. They block access to the internet because the thing that they hate the most is the spotlight of the world seeing what they are doing,” said Brendan Carr, senior Republican commissioner of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).
Rep. Maria Salazar (R-FL), a Cuban-American who represented a heavily Cuban-American district in Florida, claimed that protests in Cuba began because of a post on social media.
“Why is [restoring internet] so important? Because of everything on July 11 started because someone in a remote town in Cuba was doing a Facebook live, and then the rest of the island saw it — and then it spread like wildfire,” Salazar said.
Watch: Exclusive Interview with Rep. Salazar: “This Is the Beginning of the End” for Cuba’s Communist Regime
Biden has been under mounting pressure from human rights groups to assist protesters against Cuba’s violent regime. Since protests began, police have opened fire on crowds and beaten protesters in the streets. In the immediate aftermath of the protests, the regime shut down nationwide access to the internet and ordered door-to-door raids of homes in the cities that had the largest protest turnout.
The White House has discussed providing internet to Cuba but, two weeks later, Biden has not yet approved a plan.
“We have the technological capability to support internet connectivity for the people of Cuba. We can stand with them. We can beam in new internet services from off-island,” Carr said. “We can support circumvention tools that allow the people of Cuba to get around the blocking and the filtering of the internet and connections that exist right there.”
“We’ve done this before around the globe. This is not a technological challenge. This is a political challenge,” Carr continued. “Will the Biden Administration stand for freedom? … It’s been two weeks and I hope we get there.”
When speaking to the crowd, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) said, “time is of the essence” and said he does not “understand what it takes to make Biden move.”
Florida Sen. Rick Scott (R) agreed when he spoke, asking “where is this guy?” in reference to Biden.
Watch: Sen. Rick Scott: Biden Needs to Get Rid of “Illegitimate” Cuban Embassy in D.C.Matt Perdie
“Call it socialism, call it communism — it will fall because of the heroism of the Cuban people. It will fall because the American people understand freedom. It will fall, despite a president that is totally asleep and clueless,” Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL) joined in.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki initially attempted to claim that protesters in Cuba were objecting to the Chinese coronavirus pandemic, not 62 years of violent communism, before finally condemning communism as a “failed ideology” several days later.
Biden, too, took several days to explicitly condemn communism and failed to mention public beatings and other brutalities perpetrated by the Cuban regime. He has since sanctioned only one Cuban official – already under sanctions thanks to the administration of President Donald Trump and with no known U.S. assets – and held a Zoom call with Cuban-American celebrities to gather “advice” on potential policy changes.
“My question for president Biden is, are you with the dictators of Cuba, Venezuela, Iran, North Korea, China — or are you with the American people who want freedom and the Cuban people who dying for freedom, literally as we speak,” Rep. Nicole Malliotakis (R-NY) said.
Watch: GOP Rep., Daughter of Cuban Refugee Asks Biden: Are You with Dictators?
Marta Ferrer, the daughter of Cuban human rights activist José Daniel Ferrer, also spoke at the event, telling the crowd in Spanish that, as of Tuesday, her father has been missing for 17 days. The elder Ferrer is the head of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU), the country’s largest dissident organization. He most recently disappeared in October 2019 after organizing nationwide protests corresponding to the feast day of Cuba’s patron saint, Our Lady of Charity, only to resurface with clear signs of torture six months later. The younger Ferrer said of the protesters:
[My dad] and hundreds of Cubans who went out to demand freedom for Cuba and an end to the tyranny in Cuba. Today, we don’t know anything of him or the other hundreds of Cubans. We don’t know if they are torturing them, which is the likeliest thing. We don’t know if he is alive because they don’t give him a phone call, no visits, they don’t give us any proof of him and all the families in Cuba who now have missing relatives today … Today I am here supporting you all and expressing solidarity with all the families and demanding that the dictatorship give proof of life for all the disappeared, of my father, that the repression end in Cuba, that they stop killing innocents, imprisoning innocents going out on the street to demand an end to the tyranny and demand the freedom that 62 years ago, the dictatorship stole from them.
Watch: Daughter of Cuban Human Rights Activist José Daniel Ferrer: My Father Has Been Missing for 17 DaysMatt Perdie
“In the name of God, the God that you believe in, we ask you to just say yes to that technology,” Salazar said, addressing Biden. “Coming from the DOD (Department of Defense), coming from the private sector. It doesn’t matter we just need the Cubans to know that they are not alone.”