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On historic day, Cuban exiles pledge to support democratic opposition despite communists’ threats

MIAMI – After tributes to José Martí on Wednesday in Havana to honor the national hero who died fighting against Spanish troops in 1895, Cuban exiles met on Thursday in Miami’s Little Havana to mark Independence Day.

The island became a republic in 1902. It was a victory for the Cuba Libre movement. The Cuban exiles left a wreath of white roses at the historic Bay of Pigs Monument to honor the brave fighters. They also held a swearing ceremony at the Brigade 2506 Museum to pledge their support of the opposition in Cuba.

The tributes come just as the Cuban government used a recent 30-minute show on state television to threaten the opposition on the island and abroad. The warning: Anyone who engages in subversive acts against the Communist establishment could be charged and tried in absentia.

“They’re trying to lay the legal groundwork for covert operations against exiled opponents outside of Cuba,” said Orlando Gutierrez-Boronat, of the Miami-based Cuban Democratic Directorate.

He believes Cuban Americans who travel to the island to visit relatives and who financially support their families in Cuba are concerned about the risks of being accused of financing opposition efforts.

Gutierrez-Boronat said this new fear may affect economic activity on the island. Most recently, Cubans have experienced shortages of fuel, food, and medicine, and coronavirus pandemic lockdowns.

“I think the reason why they’re doing it is because even though they have a dire economic situation their hold on power is far more important,” Gutierrez-Boronat said.

Also on Thursday in Miami’s Little Havana, Cuban exiles marked the 40th anniversary of the Cuban American National Foundation, which Jorge Mas Canosa founded to promote Democracy and the respect of human rights in Cuba. He died in Coral Gables in 1997.

“Today is a day of celebration, but today is also a day to continue and recommit to continue fighting until we really see a free Cuba, and we can live with the blessings that we live with in the United States of America — the greatest country on Earth,” said Jorge Mas, the founder’s son and chairman of the foundation.

More on Cuba in Spanish

About the Authors:

In January 2017, Hatzel Vela became the first local television journalist in the country to move to Cuba and cover the island from the inside. During his time living and working in Cuba, he covered some of the most significant stories in a post-Fidel Castro Cuba. 

The Emmy Award-winning journalist joined the Local 10 News team in 2013. She wrote for the Miami Herald for more than 9 years and won a Green Eyeshade Award.