President Joe Biden on Thursday said Cuba is a “failed state” that is “repressing” its citizens, in his sharpest comments to date on the protests that have erupted on the communist island nation.
In his remarks, delivered during a press conference at the White House with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Biden condemned communism as a “failed system,” adding that socialism is not a “very useful substitute.”
Biden said the United States is considering many possibilities for helping Cuban citizens, while trying to figure out actions the Cuban government would not take advantage of. The president said the U.S. would look into the possibility of sending vaccines to the island to help it fight rising Covid-19 cases, but only if a third-party distributor — like an international health organization — was involved.
Biden said he would not send remittances to the country right now because it’s “highly likely that the regime would confiscate remittances, or big chunks of it.”
Cuba has seen historic protests in recent days, which the administration has attributed to a public health crisis on the island and — more recently — discontent with oppressive political leadership in Cuba. Cuban authorities shut off internet access this week, seeking to thwart the protesters’ efforts.
Biden said his administration is looking into whether the U.S. has the “technological ability” to reinstate internet access on the island.
On Monday, Biden expressed solidarity with protesters as thousands of Cubans took to the streets to rally against food and medical shortages, a dire economic situation exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic.
“The Cuban people are demanding their freedom from an authoritarian regime. And I don’t think we’ve seen anything like this protest in a long, long time — if, quite frankly, ever,” Biden told reporters Monday.
“The United States stands firmly with the people of Cuba as they assert their universal rights,” he said. “And we call on the government of Cuba to refrain from violence in their attempts to silence the voice of the people of Cuba.”
The president said Monday that the United States “stands ready to provide assistance” to both Cuba and Haiti, another Latin American country in deep crisis after the assassination of its president last week.
Several congressional Republicans have criticized the White House’s failure to quickly respond to the unrest in Cuba this week. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), a Cuban American, sent a letter to Biden on Monday, detailing Cuban’s suffering as a result of exploitation by the country’s government.
“The current protests in Cuba are not just about current economic shortages,“ he wrote. “They are about the longstanding and deliberate actions taken by the dictatorship to stymy the economic prosperity and political freedom of the Cuban people.“
White House press secretary Jen Psaki repeatedly called Cuba a communist regime that has “failed” its people during Thursday’s press briefing.
“Communism is a failed ideology, and we certainly believe that. It has failed the people of Cuba. They deserve freedom. They deserve a government that supports them, whether that is making sure they have health and medical supplies, access to vaccines, or whether they have economic opportunity and prosperity,” Psaki said.
“And instead, this has been a government — an authoritarian communist regime — that has repressed its people and has failed the people of Cuba,” she added.