White House Protesters Want Biden To Increase Pressure on Cuba
WASHINGTON — Cuban Americans made a plea for the United States to help the people of their home country Monday during a protest in Washington, D.C.
From a rally at the White House and during a march to the nearby Cuban Embassy, more than a thousand protesters shouted and carried signs demanding “Libertad,” or freedom.
“We’re here to ask for one thing — freedom,” Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, Florida’s longest-serving member of Congress, said during a mid-day rally in front of the White House.
“Where the hell are you, Mr. President?” the Republican lawmaker asked.
Their protest was spurred by similar protests in Cuba that started July 11, largely driven by worsening economic conditions and complaints about too much government control over citizens’ lives.
Many protesters in Washington had few details to offer about the action they want from the United States, other than a demand to support democracy in Cuba.
As the crowd grew in Lafayette Square, a semi-trailer with “S.O.S. Cuba” spray-painted on its side drove around the White House honking its horn.
Many of the protesters were immigrants from Cuba or descendants of refugees after Fidel Castro’s rise to power in 1961. Some of them shouted “intervention” during the rally, indicating they want the U.S. military to overthrow the communist government.
Their sentiments were not shared by members of Congress who showed up to support them.
They included Republican Reps. Maria Elvira Salazar, Dan Crenshaw, Carlos Gimenez, Nicole Malliotakis, Michael McCaul, Victoria Spartz and Michael Waltz. They suggested a more modest course of action.
“The White House can do two things, rally the international community and turn on the wifi,” Salazar said.
The protest started Sunday evening as the first buses of demonstrators arrived from Miami. More arrived Monday from other parts of Florida and Texas.
The protests in Cuba met with less tolerance from the government when security forces arrested as many as 500 demonstrators. They were protesting Cuba’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, an economic crisis, a shut-off of the Internet and further eroding of civil rights.
The mass arrests were denounced by the United States and 20 other countries. In addition, the Biden administration announced sanctions on a Cuban security minister and an interior ministry special forces unit.
The sanctions ban payments from U.S. organizations to the security minister and the special forces. In addition, U.S. entities are forbidden from accepting money from the Cubans.
“This is just the beginning,” Biden said in a statement last week. “The United States will continue to sanction individuals responsible for oppression of the Cuban people.”
Protesters outside the White House Monday shared Biden’s sentiments but wished he would do more to create change in Cuba.
Moraimo Cadavieco, a Miami homemaker and Cuban native, said she wanted “liberty for Cuba.”
At the moment, Cubans are subjected to “no comida, no nada,” (no food, no nothing), she said. She suggested more American humanitarian aid for the island nation.
Noel Morales, a Cuban native who is now a Miami construction worker, said the American embargo that started shortly after Castro assumed power is ineffective as a form of political pressure to improve civil rights in Cuba.
“The government has stepped on the people, the young people,” he said.
Yanelis Pena, a Miami medical assistant originally from the Dominican Republican, said she was at the White House protest to show support for Cubans. She also said the Biden administration should take a hard line that includes military intervention.
“The communism (sic), they’re not going to leave on their own,” she said. “It’s not fair.”
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