President Joe Biden became one of many to respond to Sunday’s protests in Cuba, calling them “remarkable” and saying, “I don’t think we’ve seen anything like this protest in a long, long time if, quite frankly, ever.”
The video above shows more of President Biden’s comments from a roundtable at the White House, as well as new video from the protests. At that roundtable, as well as in a statement, Biden praised the thousands of Cubans who took the streets.
“The United States stands firmly with the people of Cuba as they assert their universal rights,” Biden said. “And we call on the government, the government of Cuba to refrain from violence or attempts to silence the voice of the people of Cuba.” He went onto urge the Cuban government to serve their people “rather than enriching themselves.”
The protests surrounded food shortages, high prices and rising coronavirus cases.
Sunday’s protests were some of the biggest in decades. The last major public demonstration of discontent, over economic hardship, took place nearly 30 years ago in 1994. Demonstrations of this scale are unusual on an island where little dissent against the government is tolerated.
“We’ve seen how the campaign against Cuba was growing on social media in the past few weeks,″ President Miguel Díaz-Canel said Monday. “That’s the way it’s done: Try to create inconformity, dissatisfaction by manipulating emotions and feelings.”
Authorities appeared determined to put a stop to Sunday’s protest. Internet service was also spotty, which could mean there was an effort in place to prevent protesters from communicating with each other.
Biden’s comments marked a notable change in tone from his old boss, former President Barack Obama. He sought to ease decades of tensions between Washington and Havana, while loosening U.S.-imposed sanctions. That effort was reversed by former President Donald Trump.