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President Biden discusses Cuba before a meeting Monday focused on gun violence. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

White House efforts to avoid dealing with the Cuba issue have blown up amid protests on the island, congressional backlash and political pressure from the South Florida Cuban community.

Why it matters: Joe Biden's performance in South Florida during the 2020 election explains his wariness — he was crushed by Donald Trump. Democrats are worried they'll hurt themselves in Florida — and more broadly in the midterms — if they mishandle the situation.

  • President Obama made détente with Cuba — including a trip to the nation — a signature foreign policy.
  • President Trump reversed much of that: He added sanctions, put the country back on the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism and adopted a hardline approach — in line with critics of Cuba's Communist regime.
  • Biden's statement Monday morning backing the protesters was the first time he's publicly addressed Cuba since becoming president.

Between the lines: Biden’s Cuba policy review is ongoing, giving the administration some cover for the time being.

  • But the review is expected to end soon, sources familiar with the process tell Axios.

Reporters pressed White House press secretary Jen Psaki for more details during her press briefing Monday.

  • Psaki, who said in March that "a Cuba policy shift is not currently among President Biden’s top priorities," was asked whether the events over the weekend change the administration's view.
  • She said Biden has "(made) clear that he doesn't support the approach of the government of Cuba," but was noncommittal when asked specifically where the issue ranks as a priority.
  • The president later told reporters that “the U.S. stands firmly with the people of Cuba as they assert their universal rights. And we call on the government of Cuba to refrain from violence in their attempt to silence the voices of the people of Cuba.”

What they're saying: Republicans and outsiders have seized on the protests to attack the administration.

The bottom line: The challenge for Democrats isn't entirely from Republicans; their own party is split on the issue.

Be smart: Several progressive lawmakers have been slow to issue a formal response to the protests — or haven't issued one at all.

Go deeper

The China whisperer

Nick Burns. Photo: Chen Mengtong/China News Service via Getty Images

President Biden's nominee for ambassador to China will face aggressive questioning Wednesday about the most important, and potentially perilous, bilateral relationship in the world.

Why it matters: While Nick Burns is an experienced diplomat with support on both sides of the aisle, lawmakers want to use his confirmation hearing to force the administration into some tough positions on China.

Updated 38 mins ago - World

Biden cleans up comments about Russia invading Ukraine

Photo: Doug Mills-Pool/Getty Images

President Biden sought to clarify his suggestion that a "minor incursion" by Russia into Ukraine may not draw the same response as a large invasion, telling reporters Thursday that "Russia will pay a heavy price" if any troops cross the border.

Why it matters: Some officials in Kyiv saw Biden's comments as inviting Russian aggression.

Tina Reed, author of Vitals
51 mins ago - Health

Study finds bias against Black patients written into medical charts

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Black patients were more than two-and-a-half times as likely as white patients to have negative descriptors about them in their electronic health record, according to a study published Wednesday in Health Affairs.

Why it matters: The study is further evidence of bias in the U.S. health care system, which can ultimately result in worse care and disparately poor outcomes.