White House says violent crackdown in Cuba over protests is ‘unacceptable’

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The Cuban government’s crackdown on protesters is “unacceptable” and has largely stopped protests across the island nation, the White House said on Wednesday.

The Biden administration is still undergoing a comprehensive review of its Cuba policy and recent developments will factor into its response, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said.

The protests in Cuba “have largely stopped because of the regime’s violent crackdown and retaliatory measures against Cubans in exercising their fundamental and universal rights,” she said. “This is unacceptable.”

President Joe Biden earlier this week called the rare protests in Cuba a “clarion call for freedom” and said they were unlike any protests the nation has seen.

“There’s no question that the protests over the weekend, and the events of the last several days, are significant events,” Psaki said. “It was the largest protest we’ve seen in Cuba in a long time. That will obviously have an impact on how we proceed.”

Psaki said that Biden has no plans to make a policy speech on his strategic vision for Cuba and the Western Hemisphere, as other crises — in Haiti, Venezuela and Nicaragua — have also deepened in recent days.

“We will see how things develop in the days ahead” in Cuba, Psaki said, “and develop our policy responses accordingly. We don’t want to do it as one-offs. We want to look at it, as we have been, with a comprehensive approach in mind.”

Videos that reached social media despite a crackdown on internet access in Cuba indicate that protests after Sunday were smaller in scale and fewer in number, and that clashes with police continued.

Cesar Gonzalez, chief of staff to Miami Republican Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, said a lack of internet access makes it “exceedingly difficult” to get information but protests are continuing in Cuba.

“We continue to see examples on social media and from our contacts of protests and the regime violently cracking down,” Gonzalez said. “The Biden Administration needs to act now, and actually hold the regime responsible for their reprehensible and violent attacks against the Cuban people. “

PROTESTS OUTSIDE WHITE HOUSE

A crowd of several dozen protesters gathered outside the White House waving flags and signs with “Viva Cuba” and other slogans as they called for the Biden administration to intervene on behalf of the protesters in Cuba.

“We’re fighting here because we feel already that we need military intervention because they’re killing our people,” said Alejandro Perez, 31, who said he was a Florida resident who was born in Cuba and immigrated to the United States at age 13.

Perez said he drove from Tampa on Tuesday evening and said he intended to remain in Washington as long as it was necessary to spur Biden to take action.

“He’s aware of what’s going on. But he hasn’t made the right decision. We need him to help us in this,” said Perez, a professional YouTuber whose channel focuses on Cuban politics and culture.

Mildred Menendez, 55, traveled from Freeport, N.Y., with her cousins to participate in the protest “to be in solidarity with our Cuban people.”

Menendez, who said she was the daughter of Cuban refugees who came to the United States in the 1960s, carried a sign that said, “Make Cuba Great Again.”

“It’s time. It’s 62 years. It’s time to do something,” she said.

Miami Herald Washington correspondent Alex Daugherty contributed reporting.