Waving Cuban and US flags, thousands of Cuban-Americans protested in Miami and Washington on Monday in support of the historic anti-government protests on the Communist island, which they hope will usher in sweeping change.
“This is the moment, there isn’t another, and this is a definite sign that Communism is going to fall. Down with communism!” said Cuban Humberto Ponce Diaz at a demonstration in Miami’s “Little Havana” neighborhood.
Miami mayor Francis Suarez joined the protest that local media said drew about 5,000 people, and even urged the United States to intervene.
“Sixty years of Communism, cruelty and oppression cannot last any longer!” Suarez wrote on Twitter after denouncing Cuban police who beat and detained some demonstrators.
“We implore the United States to take action as we peacefully demonstrate on the streets of Miami,” he wrote.
The new battle cry of “Homeland and Life!”, which many in Miami had emblazoned on their T-shirts, was coined in opposition to the Communist party’s own slogan of “Homeland or Death!”
The protests in Cuba were sparked by anger at an economic crisis that has worsened shortages of food and medicine, and forced the government to ration electricity in the sweltering summer heat.
Demonstrators in dozens of Cuban towns and cities also called for more Covid-19 vaccinations, as the number of cases exploded across the island.
They shouted “We are hungry”, “Freedom” and “Down with the dictatorship.”
It was the first nationwide popular mobilization against the government since the 1959 revolution that brought the late Fidel Castro to power.
Normally, the only authorized rallies in Cuba are those organized by the Communist Party itself.
Although President Miguel Diaz-Canel acknowledged the “dissatisfaction” of some Cubans, he also accused Washington of wanting to provoke “social outbreaks,” and gave Communist Party loyalists a “combat order” to confront the protesters.
In Florida, state Governor Ron DeSantis said on Twitter that “Florida supports the people of Cuba who take to the streets against the tyrannical regime in Havana.”
Protest at the White House
Many Cubans living in the United States hope that Sunday’s protests could point to the end of the Communist government on the island.
On Monday, 25 Cubans protested in front of the White House in the US capital, demanding that President Joe Biden take action.
“I hope that this president and Congress will help my people,” protester Sergio Alvarez, a 32-year-old Cuban, told AFP.
“We need help. It’s very sad,” said the electrician, who said his father died in Cuba earlier this year due to a lack of medicine.
Elaine Miranda, a 26-year-old university student, said that Biden “needs to denounce about what’s going on in Cuba, because all the presidents support the Cuban people.”
Biden on Monday urged the Cuban government not to resort to violence and expressed US support for the protesters.
The president, who took office in January, has not yet reversed sanctions imposed on Cuba by his predecessor Donald Trump, and had largely avoided the issue until now.
“I hope that the Cuban people stay out there in the streets. I hope they fight. They fight for their freedom,” said Cuban-America former Marine Gianni Leyva, 35.
“And I hope the American government will allow the Cubans here to go help. We want to help — me as a veteran — and there are many veterans out there that have served in the American military, are ready to go fight for the freedoms if we are allowed.”