Last July 16, the Cuban embassy in Washington, D.C. dawned with a powerful anti-Castro message across the street. “Cuba libre” read the slogan painted by Venezuelan citizens in unequivocal support to the Cuban people who are in the streets of the island demonstrating against the communist regime.
However, hours later the message ceased to exist. A crew from the Department of Public Works (DPW) removed the “Cuba libre” with pressurized water.
The action of erasing the slogan by the D.C. Mayor’s Office, led by Democrat Muriel Bowser, was criticized by Cuban Americans and conservatives alike. The Washington Free Beacon published a story on the matter, gathering several important testimonials.
“The painting, which read ‘Cuba Libre,’ was painted on the embassy as part of a demonstration against the Cuban government and its violent treatment of political protesters. The activists were inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement, whose slogan decorated the road in front of the White House for months,” the Free Beacon article reads.
“Comedian Alex Gonzalez of Los Pichy Boys, who has spent 15 years speaking out against the communist regime and streams videos about repression in Cuba to his half-million followers on Instagram, said Bowser sides with an oppressive regime.”
“He’s not empathetic to the protesters and he’s not empathetic to the Cuban people who are suffering,” Gonzalez told the outlet. “When we see these kinds of things happening, we feel like the world doesn’t care about us, doesn’t care about our suffering.”
Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), who is Cuban-American, commented to The Washington Free Beacon that “Cuban-Americans protesting the brutal communist dictatorship in Havana painted a defiant message – “Cuba Libre” – on the street in front of the regime’s embassy in Washington. How did Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser respond? By erasing the message. It’s more shameful hypocrisy from Democrats who turn a blind eye to the evils of socialism.”
Criticism of Democrat Mayor Bowser grew in crescendo after DPW itself painted a Black Lives Matter (BLM) message on a sidewalk at what is now known as Black Lives Matter Square near the White House last year.
“It was unauthorized”: D.C. Mayor’s Office justifies the removal of “Cuba Libre” message
El American contacted Erica Cunningham, DPW’s public information officer, for an explanation of the position of the mayor’s office that decided to remove the anti-Castro message, despite the fact that similar pro-BLM messages exist on the streets of Washington, D.C.
Specifically, El American asked if the BLM message was approved before being painted by the Department of Public Works; if there are intentions to paint a message in favor of the Cuban people, who is in charge of approving the paintings or messages and how Cuban citizens can apply for such paintings and permits.
Cunningham responded that “The Department of Public Works (DPW) has a mural program in which interested entities can participate: MuralsDC. The 2021 program is closed, but DPW accepts inquiries from entities with potential mural sites throughout the year.”
She added that “The DC Department of Transportation (DDOT) has an Art in the Right of Way (AROW) program. Examples of AROW projects include various forms of art in public facilities and amenities such as bike racks, utility boxes, and pedestrian areas. AROW projects can be implemented directly by DDOT or by eligible non-DDOT entities through a public space permit (but this does not include sidewalks or roadways).”
Cunningham’s responses contrast with the images, as they show that the BLM message is on the sidewalk of a public plaza, something they claim is not allowed.
She also justified the removal of the message by explaining that “The painting of ‘Cuba Libre’ on the street was not authorized, so DPW crews performed a power wash to remove it.”
Beyond the rules and state bureaucracy, the delicate political moment and some inconsistencies in the rules generate that the D.C. mayor’s office sends a message against the Cuban people. Or at least that is the perception for conservatives and Cuban Americans identified with the “Cuba Libre” message.
“The Cuba Libre street sign in front of the Cuban embassy in Washington was a powerful message that the world should stand with the Cuban people on the side of freedom and human rights. It is unfortunate that the D.C. City Council has erased this bold call for freedom. Perhaps they are unaware that many of the more than 500 peaceful demonstrators who have been arrested by the Cuban regime following the January 11 protests are Afro-Cubans, or perhaps they simply don’t care. For many on the left, black Cuban lives don’t matter,” Giancarlo Sopo, a conservative strategist who has been closely following the demonstrations in Cuba since day one, told El American.
The removal of the “Cuba Libre” message comes at a time when Cubans in the U.S. are protesting across the country against Castro’s tyranny and calling on Joe Biden’s administration to get involved in pressuring the communist regime.