Vice President Joe Biden spoke to the PBS NewsHour tonight with the most direct US governent comments yet about the gathering Egypt protests against President Hosni Mubarak’s 29-year reign.
Mr. Biden’s comments are unlikely to be well-received by regime opponents, as they fit a narrative of steadfast US support for a government they want to bring down. About eight protesters and one policeman have died this week as Egypt has sought to bring down the heavy hand of the state against opponents. Since the US provides about $1.3 billion in military aid to Egypt a year, the repressive apparatus of the state is seen by many in Egypt as hand in glove with the US.
Tonight in Cairo, activists said that internet service was being systematically blocked, as was the use of instant messages on local cellphones, despite repeated calls from the US State Department for Egypt to allow social media sites like Facebook and Twitter to remain available to the nation’s people. Egypt is bracing for a showdown tomorrow. Organizers have called for massive protests against the regime after noon prayers on Friday, seeking to build on the unprecedented wave of public demonstrations this week calling for an end to Mubarak’s rule.
…Asked if he would characterize Mubarak as a dictator Biden responded: “Mubarak has been an ally of ours in a number of things. And he’s been very responsible on, relative to geopolitical interest in the region, the Middle East peace efforts; the actions Egypt has taken relative to normalizing relationship with – with Israel. … I would not refer to him as a dictator.”