Cuban president blames unrest on 'economic asphyxiation' by US

Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel criticized U.S. “politics of economic asphyxiation” toward the island nation in a Monday speech following protests against the government across the country. 

"Is it not very hypocritical and cynical that you block me ... and you want to present yourself as the big savior?" Díaz-Canel said, according to Reuters. "Lift the blockade ... and then we will see what this people, that has achieved an immense social work despite what is practically a war economy, is capable of."

Protesters have taken to the streets in several cities over a lack of food, power and medicine in the country of 11 million people. The protests were particularly noteworthy given the history in Cuba of generally quashing protests against the government. 

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The U.S. has kept an embargo in place against Cuba in some capacity since 1958, expanding it once Fidel Castro took power. Certain travel and trade policies toward Cuba were eased during the Obama administration, but former President TrumpDonald TrumpTrump takes shot at new GOP candidate in Ohio over Cleveland nickname GOP political operatives indicted over illegal campaign contribution from Russian national in 2016 On The Money — Dems dare GOP to vote for shutdown, default MORE reimposed restrictions. 

Díaz-Canel also serves as first secretary of Cuba’s Communist Party, taking over a role in April that previously had been filled by only Fidel Castro and his brother Raúl Castro. 

"Who is bothered by the regime, the alleged regime, in Cuba? Who is bothered by the Cuban political system, the way we do things? Not our people, not the majority of our people, because they are the ones who have built that system," Díaz-Canel said. 

"Who is bothered? The government of the United States, because they don't see the virtues of this system of government in Cuba that is capable of working with all and working for all," he added.

A number of U.S. politicians lended their support to Cuban protesters Monday, with President BidenJoe BidenHouse clears bill to provide veterans with cost-of-living adjustment On The Money — Dems dare GOP to vote for shutdown, default To reduce poverty, stop burdening the poor: What Joe Manchin gets wrong about the child tax credit MORE saying they were “bravely asserting fundamental and universal rights.”

“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,” he said in a statement.

Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, however, seemingly backed Díaz-Canel’s position, saying at a press conference that "the truth is that if one wanted to help Cuba, the first thing that should be done is to suspend the blockade of Cuba as the majority of countries in the world are asking."