The United States government should warn Cuban officials that harsh repression of ongoing protests that have swept across the island will have consequences, including potential prosecution before international courts, according to Cuban-American political insiders.
Amid an unprecedented wave of protests that has swept dozens of cities and towns across Cuba, US President Joe Biden on Monday said that the United States stands "with the Cuban people and their clarion call for freedom and relief from the tragic grip of the pandemic and the decades of repression and economic suffering to which they have been subjected."
In an interview with LPO, Otto Reich, a conservative Cuban-born former senior US diplomat who served in the administrations of Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush, said that while Biden's statement was "much stronger" than the initial State Department response and "pointed to the real causes" of the uprising, the US government should take more concrete steps to hold Cuba's government accountable.
"The [Cuban government] of course is responding the way you'd expect a totalitarian dictatorship to respond, going house to house and picking up the people they recognize from videos. They are beating them up and jailing them," said Reich, who is also President of the Florida-based Center for a Free Cuba. "The government has declared war on its own people."
The statement by President Biden, Reich said, is a "good start".
"It has to be backed up by a very clear warning to the military in Cuba and the police that violations of human rights will be prosecuted by international organizations and courts, not just the United States," he said.
Additionally, Reich said he was alarmed by reports of Internet outages in Cuba and called on the US government to do more to help information reach the Cuban people.
"I think we need to substitute the Internet, as the government has cut off as much as they can. They've not been completely successful, as there are some networks that they cannot cut off," he said. "The US has technology, which we've used in the past, to broadcast broad wave. We can use airlines that we have flying over international airspace to broadcast news. That's what the people want, and that's what the government is terrified of."
â€˜We are not in a good position'
Elio Mueller, a Cuban-American who served under the Bill Clinton administration as liaison with the Cuban-American community and is Director at the Cuban-American Foundation, told LPO that his advice for the Biden administration is to be "responsive in pushing back on repression and violence as something that the United States doesn't tolerate.
"We are not in a good position, because we basically have no relationship with Cuba. There is nothing left for Cuba to lose with the United States being angry with them as a government," he said. "You can only offer moral support, because you have no chip to play.
While Mueller acknowledged that some Cuban-American lawmakers - such as Marco Rubio - have advocated for armed intervention on the island, that isn't a feasible option.
"You are not going to send the Marines. This is a sovereign country. You can only offer moral support," he said.
Mueller added that he believes that "the solution cannot come out of Washington or the European Union."
"The solution for Cuba has to come from the Cuban people, and take responsibility for change in their own country. This is their fight."
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