U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Menendez (D-N.J.)today joined Andrea Mitchell on MSNBC to discuss the latest on the pro-democracy movement in Cuba and the need for the United States to continue to stand with the Cuban people against the authoritarian regime.
“The regime has to change in order to let the Cuban people thrive,” Chairman Menendez said, condemning the regime’s oppressive tactics to subdue people across the island. “This is one of the largest, most significant protests because it spans the whole of the country, not just Havana… this is an extraordinary moment, one that I hope the United States responds to with a series of actions that can be very helpful to the Cuban people.”
On the Biden Administration’s firm support for the protestors: “I applaud President Biden and Secretary Blinken for their strong statements in solidarity with the Cuban people and in a strong message to the Cuban regime not to use violence against their citizens who are peacefully protesting. We have seen violence by the Cuban regime, which is part of the historical repression that they rely on every time that the Cuban people rise…”
On the Cuban regime refusing to accept access to vaccines for the Cuban people through COVAX: “I certainly would be an advocate for offering vaccines by the U.S. to the Cuban people, but not through the regime. [The regime] will even use vaccinations as a way to reward their supporters and punish their opponents. We cannot permit that… Whether we can use an international health organization that the Cubans let in, or whether we can use the Catholic church which is trusted, all of those are possibilities …. But once again, the fundamental point is this is a regime that oppresses its people in ways that we as Americans cannot fully understand…but if we can get the type of openings that U.S. citizens enjoy along with most of the free world, then the Cuban people will prosper.”
On the need for continued international support for the Cuban people: “This should not be a U.S.-Cuba issue. The international community should be listening to the cries of the Cuban people for basic freedoms as recognized by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. “
On what the U.S. government should do next: ‘I think we should be messaging to the Cuban military whose motto is: ‘we draw our strength from the people’… well, the people are protesting so don’t turn your arms on your brothers and sisters as they peacefully protest. There is a place for you in a democratic Cuba as long as you don’t have blood on your hands. We should also be looking at how we can expand access to the internet, consider satellite feeds of the internet so people in the island can communicate with each other. I think we should look at how we can internationalize this effort, whether that is at the OAS or through other countries in the world that should speak out about human rights and democracy in Cuba as they do in so many other places in the world.”