Black Lives Matter faced fierce criticism late Wednesday after posting a statement that blasted the U.S. and praised Cuba's government while the island was destabilized by historic protests and violent crackdowns.
The statement – originally posted on Instagram and later tweeted and retweeted – blamed the U.S. embargo for the country's instability and credited the Cuban government for historically granting "Black revolutionaries" asylum.
Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida, was quick to rebuke an initial tweet that linked to the statement.
"The extortionist ring known as the Black Lives Matter organization took a break today from shaking down corporations for millions & buying themselves mansions to share their support for the Communist regime in #Cuba," Rubio tweeted.
The BLM statement was sent out at about the time Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel admitted in a televised address that his government’s failures played a role in the protests over food shortages and other issues. He had earlier called on "revolutionaries" to counter the anti-government protesters.
Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation, Inc.’s tweet echoed Díaz-Canel’s early statements that blamed the U.S. embargo for the country’s economic devastation. Cuba is going through its worst economic crisis in decades and is also facing a resurgence of coronavirus cases.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Monday denied claims that the U.S. was to blame. He said Cuba faces a long list of problems. He said Cubans are tired of living under a mismanaged economy.
"That is what we are hearing and seeing in Cuba, and that is a reflection of the Cuban people, not of the United States or any other outside actor," he said.
BLM called for the U.S. to lift the sanctions that are "cruel and inhumane policy, instituted with the explicit intention of destabilizing the country and undermining Cubans’ right to choose their own government, is at the heart of Cuba’s current crisis."
Cuba is being "punished by the U.S. government because the country has maintained its commitment to sovereignty and self-determination," the statement read. The group said Cuba has been an ally with "oppressed peoples of African descent" and praised the country’s effort to protect "Black revolutionaries like Assata Shakur."
(Shakur, also known as JoAnne Chesimard, was convicted of being an accomplice in the 1973 slaying of New Jersey State Trooper Werner Foerster, who left behind a wife and 3-year-old son. Shakur later escaped prison and fled to Cuba, where former Cuban leader Fidel Castro granted her asylum.)
The BLM statement underscores the tense political climate in the U.S. regarding Cuba. Many Republicans and Democrats have been forceful in their support of the anti-government protesters.
Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, the son of a Cuban immigrant, took to Twitter on Sunday in support of the thousands of protesters. He posted a video that showed dozens in front of the Communist Party headquarters and said the current regime will be "consigned to the dustbin of history."
"It has brutalized & denied freedom to generations of Cubans, and forced my family & so many others to flee," he tweeted. "The American people stand squarely with the men & women of Cuba and their noble fight for liberty."
President Biden also called the protests "historic" and a "clarion call," but his detractors say the White House has not gone far enough to support the protesters.
The progressive wing of the Democrat Party -- many of whom align themselves with BLM regarding policy -- seem unsure on how to react to the protests, subsequent violent crackdowns and Internet blackouts.
The BLM statement was widely panned on social media. The group did not immediately respond to an email from Fox News shortly after a Politico reporter posted the statement.
Giancarlo Sopo, a communication strategist who once worked on former President Trump’s re-election campaign, called the tweet "disgusting."
"Despite the Cuban dictatorship’s murdering and beating of protestors (many of them Black), BLM’s statement on Cuba…condemns the U.S., praises the Castro regime, and makes no mention of the atrocities being committed by the dictatorship," he tweeted.
Joe Walsh, the former Illinois Republican, called the statement "way worse than embarrassing." Hillel C. Neuer, the Canadian-born international lawyer, tweeted, "@Blklivesmatter just sided with the oppressors."
The true extent of the country’s crackdown is unclear due to reports of blocked internet access. The New York Times, citing Amnesty International, reported on Tuesday that at least 150 were detained. There were other reports of some protesters being unaccounted for.
Last month, for the 29th year, the United Nations General Assembly voted against the six-decade embargo, according to the New York Times. Rodney Hunter, the political coordinator at the U.S. Mission to the U.N., reportedly said the U.S. supports the Cuban people.
"Sanctions are one set of tools in our broader effort toward Cuba to advance democracy, promote respect for human rights, and help the Cuban people exercise the fundamental freedoms enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights," he said, according to the paper.
The Associated Press contributed to this report