Washington, D.C., mayor Muriel Bowser (D.) removed a pro-freedom slogan in front of the Cuban embassy a day after it was painted on the street to protest Cuba's communist regime, sparking criticism from Cuban Americans.
The painting, which read "Cuba Libre" ("Free Cuba"), was painted by the embassy as part of a demonstration against Cuba's government and its violent treatment of political protesters. Activists drew inspiration from the Black Lives Matter movement, whose slogan decorated the road in front of the White House for months. Comedian Alex Gonzalez of Los Pichy Boys, who has spent 15 years speaking out against the communist regime and streams videos about the crackdown in Cuba to his half-million followers on Instagram, said Bowser is siding with an oppressive regime.
"It is not empathetic to the protesters and it's not empathetic to the Cuban people who are suffering," Gonzalez told the Washington Free Beacon. "When we see this kind of thing happening, we feel like the world does not care about us, the world does not care about our suffering."
— Dianela Urdaneta (@DianelaUrdaneta) July 16, 2021
The Bowser administration defended the decision to crackdown on the anti-Castro activists. "The ‘Cuba Libre' painting on the street was unauthorized, so DPW crews power washed to remove it," Erica Cunningham, the public information officer for D.C. Public Works, told the Free Beacon.
The Cuban Embassy is located on the same street where the Department of Public Works painted "Black Lives Matter" in large yellow letters at Bowser's behest in June 2020. The section of road is now designated as "Black Lives Matter Plaza" and maintained by the city. At the time, Bowser said the plaza, near historic St. John's Church, which was nearly burned down by rioters last summer, was supposed to honor those who took to the streets following the death of George Floyd. Bowser has yet to acknowledge the pro-freedom Cuban protesters who, Gonzalez says, have had enough of communist rule.
"If you were listening to everyone on the street in Cuba, they were chanting, ‘Freedom and down with communism; freedom and no more communism!'" Gonzalez said. "They don’t have any fear anymore. They don't care because they have nothing more to lose. The Castro regime has taken everything from them."
Mayor Bowser did not return a request for comment.
Back in 2016, Bowser praised the Castro regime for its literacy and graduation rates. "Given Cuba’s emphasis on a strong education, I know there’s a lot we can learn from each other. The District will continue to draw on best practices from around the globe as we close the achievement gap and prepare the next generation for the jobs of tomorrow," she said during her visit to the University of Havana. She was also effusive about Cuba's health care system. "No matter your background or economic status, everyone has the right to quality health care—and it’s encouraging to see that Cuba has made that a top priority," she said after a meeting with the daughter of Raúl Castro.
Gonzalez said Bowser's pro-Castro talking points are grounded in naiveté.
"Socialism and communism and social health care is beautiful in words, beautiful when you say it, but when you live it, you know it is hell on earth," Gonzalez said.
Activists are winning support from Capitol Hill even as Bowser's administration attempts to erase their message. Sen. Marco Rubio (R., Fla.), the son of Cuban immigrants, called Bowser's order to erase the message "shameful."
"Cuban-Americans protesting Havana’s brutal, communist dictatorship painted a defiant message—‘Cuba Libre’—on the street outside of the regime’s embassy in Washington. How did DC mayor Muriel Bowser respond? By erasing it. It’s more shameful hypocrisy from Democrats turning a blind eye to the evils of socialism," Rubio said in an email.
Pro-freedom Cuban protesters demonstrated in front of the White House last week calling for the Biden administration to do more to support the anti-communism movement in Cuba.
"I expect from the American government a little bit more empathy for the Cuban cause. I have seen very little from the Biden administration regarding this matter. We would love to see the Biden administration making a stronger statement about the killing," Gonzalez said in reference to the violent crackdown on protests in Havana.
Though he does not necessarily think it should intervene militarily, Gonzalez said the United States should be more supportive of the Cuban people.
"During the protests, we could see people walking on the streets carrying the American flag because the American flag around the world is a symbol of freedom," he said. "They want America to help them gain their freedom."