Bernie Sanders calls on Cuban government to 'refrain from violence' against protesters

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Sen. Bernie Sanders called on the Cuban government to “refrain from violence” against the thousands of protesters who took to the streets in the communist country this week.

“All people have the right to protest and to live in a democratic society,” the Vermont independent and former Democratic presidential candidate tweeted late Monday night. “I call on the Cuban government to respect opposition rights and refrain from violence.” 

Mr. Sanders also called on the U.S. government to lift its trade embargo against Cuba, which started in the late 1950s during the Cuban Revolution.

“It’s also long past time to end the unilateral U.S. embargo on Cuba, which has only hurt, not helped, the Cuban people,” he added.

Mr. Sanders, a self-described democratic socialist who has repeatedly praised Fidel Castro’s literacy program, was criticized for ignoring in his tweet that the protesters are demonstrating against decades of economic devastation under Cuba’s communist rule. He also faced some criticism for issuing the tweet more than a day and a half after protesters first flooded the streets, where protesting against the government can easily land you in jail or worse.

More than 140 Cubans have been detained or disappeared in a widening crackdown by Cuba’s security forces, according to international rights advocates monitoring the situation.

Mr. Sanders is the first democratic socialist in Congress to speak out about the protests. Other members of the so-called “Squad” in Congress, including Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib, Ayanna Pressley and Cori Bush, have remained silent.

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