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If Biden bungles the bloodshed in Cuba, Democrats can kiss the American Cuban vote goodbye forever

Anti-government protesters gather at the Maximo Gomez monument in Havana, Cuba, Sunday, July 11, 2021. Hundreds of demonstrators took to the streets in several cities in Cuba to protest against ongoing food shortages and high prices of foodstuffs. (AP Photo/Eliana Aponte)
Anti-government protesters gather at the Maximo Gomez monument in Havana, Cuba, Sunday, July 11, 2021. Hundreds of demonstrators took to the streets in several cities in Cuba to protest against ongoing food shortages and high prices of foodstuffs. (AP Photo/Eliana Aponte)

President Biden:

For six decades, the U.S. government’s position has been that regime change in Cuba must come from within.

And, at this very moment, it is.

A new generation of brave Cubans, born and raised under the Castro brothers’ dictatorship, has taken a historic first step, staging massive demonstrations from one end of the island to the other.

When was the last time Cuba saw thousands of people, reportedly in some 60 cities, on the streets clamoring, as you astutely said, for freedom?

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They have served you, on a silver platter, the one thing that has eluded all other U.S. administrations: a massive grassroots revolt.

The regime, led by puppet “president” Miguel Diaz-Canel had a lot of options to deal with the peaceful demonstrations. But, instead, he chose to black out the internet in Cuba so he could crackdown at whim; he commanded neighbors to fight neighbors; and he sent special forces to forcibly remove people from their homes, to beat, arrest, kill.

Diaz-Canel and his ruling class could have responded by opening the economy.

They could accept humanitarian help that Cuban Americans in exile want to deliver — and that the U.S. government, too, has offered before, as was the case when Venezuelans protested.

“They could have gone on a listening tour instead of a shooting tour,” said María de los Angeles Torres, professor of Latin American and Latino Studies at the University of Illinois in Chicago, and a frequent traveler to Cuba for research and family visits.

But the disconnect between the people and a government that has ruled the island like a private fiefdom for 62 years runs deeper than the waters of the Florida Straits.

The Cuban people now have bravely proven, once and for all, that the rulers have no legitimacy.

You must act with urgency, Mr. President.

But you haven’t.

That’s why exploitative Republicans are able to fill the vacuum, irresponsibly calling for military intervention and possible air strikes they know aren’t the solution and can’t be delivered. Not even President Trump chose these options in Venezuela.

A stirring, two-paragraph statement on the second day of protests isn’t nearly enough from the leader of the free world when the suffering is 90 miles from U.S. shores.

“Where is Biden? Where is Biden,” shouted Tuesday Cuban-American demonstrators in Tampa, showing their support for the #SOSCuba movement.

Good question, but what do we get?

Alejandro Mayorkas, the Cuban-American secretary of Homeland Security, telling the victims don’t even think of coming.

Wrong answer, President Biden. If Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez unleashes another Mariel, as he has threatened, you had better send a fleet of Navy ships to the Florida Straits.

Your people are bungling the response.

Cuban-American and Florida Democrats can’t say it any louder: Mr. President, you should be here in Miami. Better yet, speak from the San Carlos Institute in Key West, from where, in 1892, José Martí launched the final phase of his campaign for Cuba’s independence.

You must address the Cuban people and offer unified solidarity at this juncture.

Yet this is what I see: Cubans marching through the streets of Camagüey chanting — after, in a rare show of solidarity, the police stepped aside and let the marchers proceed — “¡Si, se puede¡ “ “¡Si, se puede¡ “

Though chanted in Spanish, it should ring familiar to Americans: “Yes, we can! Yes, we can!”

They’re echoing President Obama, who showed this generation the way, told them it was possible.

But, Mr. President, don’t copy the Obama playbook. Don’t copy the Trump playbook.

Display both your strength and your humanitarian depth, as you recently did in Surfside, and speak to people in this community whose families are under attack in Cuba, whose young people are nothing short of heroic.

You must, because Democrats — like the architect of Obama’s engagement policy, Ben Rhodes — are bungling the moment.

Instead of strongly condemning the brutal violence our families in Cuba are facing without mincing words, he’s tweeting about the “punishing U.S. embargo,” equating it with the harm the Communist regime causes and dismissing the unresolved attacks on U.S. and Canadian diplomats saying, “ ‘Havana Syndrome’ is not a Cuba-specific phenomenon.”

True, the 60-year-old embargo hasn’t delivered democracy, but neither did Obama’s one-sided engagement. It was a mixed bag with plenty of wrong moves, to be celebrated only for the nationally televised speech he gave in Havana showing Cubans the path to change.

As for the embargo, it has nothing to do with the lack of freedoms in Cuba.

I’m writing these words filled with anger and disappointment.

I’m seeing Americans, and particularly too many African Americans, whose rightful fight for equity I’ve defended, turn a blind eye to what’s going on in Cuba, as if those batons and those bullets aren’t falling on Black people’s heads. You cannot stand against police brutality in the United States, but ignore it in Cuba.

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Don’t turn your back on Cuba’s people, no matter what crappy U.S. politics are playing out in Florida, Washington D.C. — or the damn Palmetto Expressway.

The victims are the people of Cuba.

The protagonists of this story are the people of Cuba.

The bad guys are the Cuban regime led by a ruthless leader; whatever remnants of the Castro brothers is left; police obeying their commands; and the Ministry of the Interior forces, often dressed as civilians while beating people up.

They’re committing crimes against humanity. Just listen to Cubans describe how family members were shot or killed on videos being widely shared among Cuban Americans.

The government has shut down the internet, phones and social media so that the world can’t see what they’re doing. But the people of Cuba are getting some vital information out in ways I won’t divulge. It would only help the executioners.

At this point, even foreign journalists based in Cuba are filing superficial reports. Their knowledge is limited, their mobility is curtailed, resulting in wishy-washy stories and video that show a quiet Havana.

It’s a mirage.

God help the people of Cuba if these reports are guiding you.

Veterans of the underground funnel of information know that Cubans remain restless, defiant. They’re giving this moment their all.

Don’t leave them all alone — stand with them, Mr. President, and pressure international leaders to do so, too.

Before Trump, Cuban Americans twice voted for Obama. If Democrats bungle the bloodshed in Cuba, they will forfeit Cuban-Americans voters forever — and they will deserve it.

©2021 Miami Herald. Visit miamiherald.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

This content is published through a licensing agreement with Acquire Media using its NewsEdge technology.

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