In recent weeks, we have seen courageous Cubans flood the streets across their country. The Cuban people desperately desire to protest the tyranny and incompetence of the communist dictatorship that has ruled their country with an iron hand for 62 years. Their brave protests are demanding the very things most Americans take for granted – free elections, free speech and economic opportunity.

Cuba’s brutal communist regime has been quick to respond to the demonstrations of its own citizens. Protestors have been beaten in the streets, hundreds of non-violent demonstrators have been imprisoned, the internet has been cut off and media outlets have been silenced. Sadly, many western leaders and countries have ignored or soft-pedaled the plight of the Cuban people and the barbarity of the regime that rules this beleaguered island nation.

In our own country, apologists for the Cuban regime in Congress have actually blamed America for the troubles of Cuba. They claim the boycott of Cuba, maintained by multiple administrations of both parties for many decades, is the cause of the current demonstrations. In doing so, they ignore the brutality and ineptitude of the communist clique that has ruled Cuba for six decades. And they also turn a blind eye to Cuba’s efforts to spread its own brand of communism, called “democratic socialism,” across Latin America. Indeed, even as it faces demonstrations in its own streets, Cuba’s communist regime is helping to prop up despotic regimes in Venezuela and Nicaragua.

The struggle of brave and bold Cubans demanding freedom is a sobering reminder of the harsh and oppressive reality of socialism and communism. These seductive ideologies have failed time and time again when put into practice in countries around the world. When Fidel Castro came into power in 1959, Cuba was one of the wealthiest countries in the Western Hemisphere. Castro promised economic prosperity and freedom under the guise of “democratic socialism.” What the Cuban people got instead was economic stagnation and political oppression at the hands of a brutal, self-perpetuating communist dictatorship.

While many Cuban apologists on the American left blame the U.S. embargo for Cuba’s problems, the real culprit is its own communist regime. Indeed, as America’s own thriving Cuban community has demonstrated, when given political freedom and economic opportunity, Cubans, like other people, will thrive and prosper. Indeed, the contrast between the thriving Cuban community in Florida and the miserable plight of Cubans in Cuba itself is convincing proof of the superiority of democratic capitalism over the false promises of communist dictatorship.

I am disappointed that so many members of Congress have been oblivious to the drama taking place in Cuba just 90 miles off our shores. Rather than blaming American policy for the failures of Cuba’s communist regime, they should be encouraging the brave Cuban protestors and urging our government to do what it can to support their protests and rally the world to their cause. As the brightest beacon of hope for freedom and opportunity around the world, the United States must stand with the Cuban people in their fight for democracy. That is why I joined dozens of Republicans last week in urging world leaders to act in support of the Cuban people and their democratic aspirations.

The Cubans flooding their streets while waving American flags is a sobering reminder of the precious freedoms we enjoy and too often take for granted. Indeed, I am struck by the sight of Cubans celebrating the freedoms of America at a time when Americans turn their back on this global symbol of freedom. We should never take the freedoms we enjoy and that our flag embodies and symbolizes for granted. And we should never forget that as Americans we have a special obligation to offer moral and material support to those fighting for these ideals that our flag so proudly represents.