This past weekend, thousands of peaceful protesters took to the streets to demand freedom and the end of Cuba’s communist regime inspiring many in Miami to do the same.
From Havana to Santiago, Cuban protesters took to the street this past Sunday, July 11, to denounce the lack of freedom and prolonged shortages in the country in what has been the largest protest yet in the last decade. Here’s what to know about how they are protesting, what is being demanded and the effect these protests have had on Miami.
What is the situation in Cuba?
This past Sunday, July 11, thousands of Cubans across the country gathered on the streets to demand freedom and the end of the communist government amid shortages of food, basic necessities and vaccines and the country’s worst economic crisis in decades. The situation has only been exacerbated by a severe rebound of COVID-19 cases in recent weeks.
The unprecedented protests eruped in several of the island’s largest cities including Havana, Santiago, Santa Clara, Matanzas, Cienfuegos y Holguín as well as smaller towns like Artemisa, San Antonio de los Baños, Palma Soriano, Cárdenas and more.
Thousands gathered in downtown Havana and other cities asking for “Diaz-Canel step down”, referring to President Miguel Diaz-Canel. “No tenemos miedo” (We are not afraid) and “Queremos libertad!” (We want freedom!) are but some of the other many chants that rung through different areas of Cuba during Sunday’s protests.
According to incoming reports from the island, these marches are the largest to take place in the island since the mid 90s. The last time Cuban people took to the streets was in 1994 when Fidel Castro still ruled as president but the anti-government protest, which became known as the “Maleconao” did not last long and only took place in Havana. The protests were turned into a massive exodus by Castro when he briefly opened Cuba’s maritime borders, pushing Cubans to escape the island on old and rickety boats in what became known as the Balsero crisis.
However, protests seem to have quieted down after President Miguel Díaz-Canel deployed the military police force to control the situation on Monday following the weekend protests. Incidents of police hitting and shooting protesters and carrying out arrests throughout the island. Exhiled human rights group Cubalex has reported at least 100 arrests following Sundays protests.
Authorities are also said to have blocked social media sites in an attempt to censor information about the demonstrations. Mobile internet outages, the only way in which Cubans have access to the internet, are also common.
How are Miami and the rest of the US showing its support?
Following Sunday’s protests in Cuba, many Miamians were inspired to take to their street in solidarity and voice their support for the people of Cuba. Almost 5,000 protesters gathered around Little Havana’s Calle Ocho to denounce the communist Cuban regime. Other satellite protests have also erupted across the US all the way up to Times Square in NYC.
“The Cuban people are on the streets, so Miami will too,” chanted the thousands of demonstrators who gathered around the Versailles and La Carreta restaurants. Protesters were supported by the Miami Police Department who shut down Southwest Eighth Street from 32nd Ave. to 37th Ave. to allow for the peaceful protests.
“It’s been a peaceful demonstration,” Miami Police chief Art Acevedo told the Miami Herald. ” Our city is excercising its First Amendment right.” He added that no arrests were made and there was one only medical emergency, a seizure.
Many protesters joined the demonstration holding up signs reading “Patria y Vida” (“Homeland and Life”) a slogan that has become very popular amongst activist after a viral music video turned around the revolutionary slogan “Patria o Muerte” (“Homeland or Death”).
Miami Mayor Francis Suarez, who is Cuban-American, was also present at Sunday’s demonstrations and voiced his support for the Cuban cause pleading with President Biden to intervene. ” The Cuban regime’s military police are shooting at unarmed Cuban protestors fighting for freedom,” he said.
Other Florida officials such as Republican Florida Sen. Ileana García and Republican US Rep. María Elvira have also voiced their support for the cause and have asked President Biden to intervene by tightening the exhisiting embargo aggainst the regime, but also sending humanitarian aid to Cuba.
During a press conference on Monday night, President Joe Biden also said that the United States supports the cuban people, calling their unprecedented protests a “clarion call for freedom and relief” from the pandemic and decades of dictatorship.
“We stand with the Cuban people and their clarion call for freedom and relief from the tragic grip of the pandemic and from decades of repression and economic suffering to which they have been subjected by Cuba’s authoritarian regime.”
How can we show our support?
Social Media has been a great factor in spreading awareness about the current situation in Cuba according to Cuban-American social media content creator, Marissa Daniela, who spoke to CBS 4 Miami. “I cannot stress enough how social media has played a critical part in what has happened in Cuba,” says Marissa Daniela. “You know, the state media likes to control everything, so what happens in one part of the country or one part of the island, nobody used to know about.”
The hashtag #SOSCUBA was first created by protestors in Havana to voice their frustration and exhaustion with the current government on social media and to garner urgent humanitarian intervention as well as international attention and solidarity. Since then the hashtag has been used by many to spread awareness and bring attention to the cause, including Cuban-American celebrities such as Camila Cabello and Miami’s own Pitbull.
While there are no humanitarian aid campaigns destined to the cause at the moment, one of the ways to show your support for Cuban protesters could be by joining the #SOSCUBA movement on social media and through peaceful protests and spreading awareness under the hashtag across social media platforms.
Featured image: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images/AFP (Photo by Anna Moneymaker / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Getty Images via AFP)