The White House avoided using the terms "socialism" or "communism" when asked why some Cubans are fleeing their country after historic protests over the regime's handling of the struggling economy and the coronavirus pandemic.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki was adamant President Joe Biden and his administration has been "pretty clear" that they believed Cubans were leaving and demonstrating because of their opposition to the Cuban government's "oppression" and "mismanagement" but declined to blame the ideologies that so enrage conservatives. Socialism, however, has been embraced by some prominent members of the president's party, leaving him largely unable to denounce it.
"We certainly support their right to protest. We support their efforts to speak out against their treatment in Cuba," she told reporters on Wednesday.
Psaki went on to describe what the administration is doing for Cubans "seeking protection" or "attempting to flee." Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, for instance, was assessing whether Cubans in the United States may be eligible for asylum if they fear returning home, according to Psaki. Mayorkas, a Cuban immigrant, had earlier told people from his home country not to come to the U.S.
"We support, not just the role of protest and peaceful protest, we stand with the Cuban people in their call for freedom from both the pandemic and from decades of oppression and economic suffering, to which they have been subjected by Cuba's authoritarian regime," Psaki added.
The White House is still reviewing its Cuba policy after it was overhauled by President Donald Trump, particularly how it will affect "the political and economic well-being of the Cuban people," according to Psaki. She said the demonstrations and the Cuban government's response "will obviously have an impact on how we proceed," though there were no plans for Biden to deliver a speech or visit nearby Miami. During the campaign, Biden had promised a return to former President Barack Obama's diplomatic strategy.
"The protests in Cuba, as you all know, have largely stopped because of the regime's violent crackdown and retaliatory measures against Cubans exercising their fundamental and universal rights. This is unacceptable," Psaki said. "We will continue to call for a change in approach, and we will continue to review our own policies about what is possible and work with our partners around the world in a coordinated fashion."
While Biden and Psaki have referred to "the harsh reality of everyday life in Cuba," the State Department and high-profile Democrats, including Vermont socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders, have appeared reluctant to criticize Cuba's totalitarian regime.
The perception Biden was sympathetic toward the Cuban government dominated the 2020 Democratic presidential primary and hurt the then-candidate in the battleground state of Florida.
Demonstrators claim more than 100 people have been arrested or are missing after the weekend's unrest, spurred by economic hardship exacerbated by the pandemic. Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel has insisted U.S. "economic asphyxiation" is behind the uprising.
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Original Author: Naomi Lim
Original Location: White House avoids blaming socialism for Cuba unrest