Senators Express Bipartisan Support for Cuban Protestors, Remain Divided Over US Embargo

Jul 14, 2021
2:43 PM

Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., displays a photo of the protests in Cuba as he speaks to reporters at the Capitol in Washington, Tuesday, July 13, 2021. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Latino Rebels returned to the Capitol this week where on Monday afternoon and Tuesday we asked Senators to comment on reports of unrest in Cuba over existing shortages of food and medicine during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We have to make sure that people have the right to protest and there has been a long history of suppression there and anti-democratic government,” Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) told Latino Rebels on Tuesday afternoon. “My approach to this has been of course to lift the embargo. I lead that bill with Senator [Jerry] Moran [R-KS].”

“I think the U.S. has demonstrated a real willingness to [lift the embargo] by normalizing relations [with Cuba],” Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA) told LR on Tuesday morning, “but the response from the Cuban government has been very disappointing.”

“We should not have cooperated with the Castro regime, ever,” Senator Ron Jonson (R-WI) said when asked if the embargo should be lifted. “We need to do everything we can to support the Cuban people, not the corrupt, dictatorial, repressive, brutal, communist regime that’s there. It’s not easy. Not at all.”

“But my heart is with the Cuban people yearning to be free,” Johnson added, “and I’m highly concerned about it.”

When asked if the embargo should be lifted, Senator Roy Blunt (R-MO) told Latino Rebels simply, “No.”

“I think the United States should step up and be very forward-leaning in encouraging [the protestors in Cuba] and discouraging the likely repressive activities that the Cuban government will continue to follow,” Blunt said.

Other Senators from both parties avoided a straight answer to the question of the embargo. When asked specifically about the embargo on Monday afternoon, Senator Ben Ray Luján (D-NM) told LR the following: “I think President Biden is speaking very clearly in that the people need to be listened to and need to be supported. We’re going to be working closely with this administration and what I appreciate is that you have President Biden, you have Senator [Bob] Menendez and Marco Rubio, and we’re all saying the same thing. So I think that this may be a moment when we can all work together for the good of the people of Cuba and evaluate what steps need to be taken.”

“I think we oughta be doing everything we can right now to support the people of Cuba,” Senator Rick Scott (R-FL) told LR after a press conference with GOP Minority Leader Mitch McConnell on Tuesday afternoon where the freshman senator from Florida showed photos to reporters that he said were of victims of the Cuban regime. Scott wouldn’t say if he believes the embargo should be lifted.

Other GOP Senators echoed Scott’s comments.

“America should go all-in trying to support the Cuban people,” Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) told LR on Tuesday.

“The most important thing we should do is send a very clear signal that the communist regime there is an illegitimate regime,” freshman Senator Josh Hawley (R-MO) told LR when asked if the U.S. embargo on Cuba should be lifted.

“We should absolutely firmly stand behind the Cuban protestors,” Hawley added.

“It’s historic,” Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) said. “I mean people are really brave taking to the streets in an oppressive regime that they know is gonna crack down on them.”

“I think what the U.S. should do is get the internet back restored because apparently, the Cuban government has cut off the internet. I’m told this is how the demonstrators are communicating,” Portman continued, “but whatever we can do to help with wi-fi, I don’t know technically how we do it, but I’m told there’s a way to be helpful. And I think we should consider additional sanctions to people who are proven to have abused people’s human rights in this process.”

As of Wednesday afternoon, reports said that internet access has been restored in Cuba although Cubans don’t have access to social media sites.


Pablo Manríquez is Latino Rebels’ Washington correspondent. He is an immigrant from Santiago de Chile with a political science degree from the University of Notre Dame. The Washington Post calls him “an Internet folk hero.” Twitter: @PabloReports.