The America First Policy Institute on Monday joined the growing number of groups and individuals backing the Cuban people protesting the communist government there, saying "we share a common dream" of protecting basic liberties.
"The America First Policy Institute supports the people of Cuba in their fight for freedom," said retired Lt. Gen. Keith Kellogg, co-chairman of the Institute's Center for American Security, in a statement released to the press.
"They understand like few others today how fragile freedom is and how vital it is for the prosperity and advancement of humanity," Kellogg said. "Their fight is our fight, and we share a common dream of protecting basic liberties for our children and future generations, whether from discredited ideologies like Socialism and Communism or from new forces like Big Tech and their efforts to suppress dissent."
Following his service in the Army, Kellogg was a foreign policy adviser to Donald Trump during his 2016 presidential campaign and served the Trump administration as acting national security adviser to the president and as national security adviser to Vice President Mike Pence.
According to its website, the America First Policy Institute "exists to conduct research and develop policies that put the American people first. Our guiding principles are liberty, free enterprise, national greatness, American military superiority, foreign-policy engagement in the American interest, and the primacy of American workers, families, and communities in all we do."
Former President Trump on Monday also declared, "I stand with the Cuban people 100% in their fight for freedom," and called on the Biden administration to stand up against communism.
The White House on Monday said the U.S. backs the protesters, but stopped short of saying what actions might be taken.
"The Cuban people are demanding their freedom from an authoritarian regime. I don't think we've seen anything like this protest in a long long time, if, quite frankly, ever," President Joe Biden said in a brief exchange with reporters at the start of a meeting with mayors and law enforcement officials to discuss gun violence.
The comments marked a notable change in tone from Biden's old boss, Barack Obama, who as president sought to ease decades of tensions between Washington and Havana while loosening U.S.-imposed economic sanctions. It was an effort that was reversed by Trump, who partially rolled back Obama's rapprochement, limiting U.S. travel to the island, banning American financial transactions with dozens of enterprises, and more.
"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," Biden said in an earlier statement on Monday. "The Cuban people are bravely asserting fundamental and universal rights."
Julie Chung, acting assistant secretary of state at the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs, on Sunday suggested that the protests were driven by Cuban people exercising "their right to peaceful assembly to express concern about rising COVID case/deaths & medicine shortage. We commend the numerous efforts of the Cuban people mobilizing donations to help neighbors."
But White House press secretary Jen Psaki on Monday sought to frame the protests being driven by far broader frustration, calling the demonstrations "spontaneous expressions of people who are exhausted with the Cuban government's economic mismanagement and repression."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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