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Tags: julie chung | state department | cuba

Biden Official Blasted for Saying Cuba Protests Were About COVID, Med Shortages

julie chung talks into  mic on tarmac
Then-Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Julie Chung talks in front of three C-17 cargo planes at Homestead Air Reserve Base Saturday, Feb. 16, 2019, in Homestead, Fla. (Luis M. Alvarez/AP)

By    |   Monday, 12 July 2021 01:36 PM

A State Department official's tweet suggesting massive freedom protests in Cuba erupted across the island nation because of medication shortages and the COVID-19 pandemic triggered fierce blowback that she'd misconstrued the real reason thousands took to the streets.

Julie Chung, acting assistant secretary for the Department of State's Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs, on Sunday tweeted her full support for the protesters — but put her own spin on their motivation.

"Peaceful protests are growing in #Cuba as the Cuban people exercise their right to peaceful assembly to express concern about rising COVID cases/deaths & medicine shortages. We commend the numerous efforts of the Cuban people mobilizing donations to help neighbors in need," Chung tweeted.

Yet participants at the anti-government protests Sunday chanted "Down with the dictatorship," as the country endures its worst economic crisis in 30 years, with chronic shortages of electricity and food.

According to the Blaze, videos showed mass crowds of Cuban demonstrators shouting "liberated" and "patria y vida" — homeland and life — while waving American flags.

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., trashed Chung's tweet and taunted the Biden administration Sunday night, tweeting: "It's now 10:15pm, and still nothing from @JoeBiden."

"COVID is the icing on the cake here because you have a socialist regime that says to people, 'You have no freedom. You have no independence. You have no ability to speak freely, but you have a really good health care system.' They don't!" Rubio said in a video statement, the Blaze reported.

"Of course COVID has a role to play, but this began well before COVID. These people are frustrated. They want to live in a normal country," Rubio continued. "Why can't the State Department, why can't the White House just say it clearly: This is not about COVID, this is not about anything else! This is about freedom — say it!"

Alberto Miguel Fernandez, a retired U.S. diplomat who was born in Cuba, was even more blunt, tweeting: "What a dull, lifeless, dumb tweet by #Biden @StateDept official. People in Cuba aren't calling for COVID shots or medicine. They are calling for Freedom."

And Cuban-born Rep. Carlos Gimenez, R-Fla., also tweeted his disgust with the Chung's comment, writing: "The Biden Admin is totally deranged on #Cuba policy. This isn't some pesky protest over COVID vaccines. This is about opposing a brutal communist regime, freeing political prisoners, and demanding free elections. If you can't make that distinction, you are very bad at your job."

While Chung did not respond to the criticism directly, she later tweeted: "We stand by the Cuban people's right for peaceful assembly. We call for calm and condemn any violence."

Meanwhile, President Joe Biden Monday issued a statement backing the protesters and calling on the Cuban regime to "to hear their people and serve their needs at this vital moment rather than enriching themselves," CBS News reported. The president said the Cuban people are "bravely asserting fundamental and universal rights," which "must be respected."

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Politics
A State Department official's tweet suggesting massive freedom protests in Cuba erupted across the island nation because of medication shortages and the COVID-19 pandemic triggered fierce blowback...
julie chung, state department, cuba
494
2021-36-12
Monday, 12 July 2021 01:36 PM
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