The U.S. is weighing intervention in the Cuban government’s ongoing crackdown on widespread protests, President Joe Biden said Thursday, amid widespread shortages of food and medicine and attempts by Havana to limit dissenters’ ability to communicate with one another.
“They’ve cut off access to the internet,” Biden said at the White House Thursday afternoon in a press conference alongside German Chancellor Angela Merkel. “We’re considering whether we have the technology to reinstate that access.”
Widespread internet blackouts across the Caribbean island appear to have been enacted by the government and follow surprisingly diverse protests in Cuban cities. Individuals and families from a variety of backgrounds in addition to journalists and activists are gathering to speak out against acute shortages of supplies needed to address the most pernicious effects of the ongoing pandemic.
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Reports have emerged that Cubans have had to line up for blocks to purchase whatever they can find at stores, and outrage has been magnified by inflation as well as the blackouts amid the tropical summer heat.
“It has destroyed me,” Raisa Emilia González Cantillo, the mother of a jailed artist and dissident, told The Washington Post on Wednesday. “We don’t even have Internet to tell the world what’s happening.”
Biden on Thursday described Cuba as “a failed state” that is “repressing their citizens.” His comments represent a break from his former boss, President Barack Obama, who prioritized repairing relations with Cuba among his Western Hemisphere policies.
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“There are a number of things we are considering doing to help the people of Cuba, but that would require a different circumstance or a guarantee that they would not be taken advantage of by the government,” Biden added. He offered as an example the cash remittances that Cuban-Americans could send to family on the island. The U.S. does not currently permit those due to concerns the government would confiscate them for its own purposes.
Biden said the U.S. also does not have plans to ship vaccines for the coronavirus to Cuba until an international aid organization can ensure average citizens would have access to them.
Biden’s comments come as he faces increased domestic political pressure, particularly in key states like Florida, to do more to help the people of the ailing island. “Where is Biden?” chants broke out at a protest in Tampa this week.