Conservative commentator Ben Shapiro claimed in a tweet Monday that the White House suggested that “this liberty movement [in Cuba] is solely about lack of vaccines and US sanctions.”
This tweet came after Biden administration official Julie Chung, who is the acting assistant secretary for the State Department’s Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairstweeted that the protesters are acting to “express concern about rising COVID cases/deaths & medicine shortages.”
Chung was the first Biden official to speak out on the protests in Cuba, and it wasn’t until Monday morning that President Biden released a statement, in which he said:
“We stand with the Cuban people and their clarion call for freedom and relief from the tragic grip of the pandemic and from the decades of repression and economic suffering to which they have been subjected by Cuba’s authoritarian regime. The Cuban people are bravely asserting fundamental and universal rights. Those rights, including the right of peaceful protest and the right to freely determine their own future, must be respected. The United States calls on the Cuban regime to hear their people and serve their needs at this vital moment rather than enriching themselves.”
Chung later shared a tweet echoing Biden’s statement.
While Shapiro’s tweet prompted criticism given Biden’s statement did not claim the protests were “solely about the lack of vaccines and US sanctions,” his tweet preceded the release of Biden’s statement. It is now clear from Biden’s comments that his administration does not believe the protests in Cuba are “solely” about the government’s pandemic response, but such was not the case when Shapiro initially tweeted.
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