MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, Fla. – Despite new state laws to prohibit demonstrations blocking traffic, SOS Cuba protesters were inspired to follow the actions of the Black Lives Matter movement in Miami-Dade County.
Cuban American protesters said they want to make sure that the message that Cubans on the communist island have risked their lives fighting for freedom is heard clearly in the White House and around the world.
“They are in violation of the law but you have to have patience. You can’t come out here and arrest everybody,” Florida Highway Patrol Trooper Joe Sanchez said late Tuesday.
For hours, troopers kept an eye on large crowds on the Palmetto Expressway at Coral Way and on Okeechobee Road near Hialeah. Officers from Miami, Miami-Dade, and other departments also dealt with safety concerns during the demonstrations.
“We need this regime to be gone. People are dying. Kids are out in the street protesting. They are getting beaten by the Cuban regime,” said Hansel Hernandez, a Miami-Dade protester on Okeechobee Road, adding drivers were patient and joined the protest.
Cuban American protesters used signs and T-shirts to display the motto of the protests — “Patria Y Vida,” or “Homeland and Life.” The phrase antagonizes Fidel Castro’s rallying cry of “Socialism or Death” and Che Guevara’s “Homeland or Death” 1960s speech.
Activists said the government’s inability to deal with the pandemic’s public health and economic crises has turned deadly. Leticia Ramos Herrería, an activist in Cuba’s city of Cárdenas, has been dealing with officials’ repressive response to criticism for years.
Despite her years of experience, she said she was afraid. She felt the response to the SOS Cuba protests was bad enough that she decided to risk arrest to provide an update on the situation to Local 10 News. Cuban officials reported there was one death related to the protests.
“The situation is very tense in this city. People haven’t stopped taking to the streets,” Ramos Herrería said in Spanish Tuesday, adding there have been violent raids and arbitrary arrests.
In Miami, Danet Collada, a protester outside of Versailles in Little Havana, said she felt anguish as she waited for updates from her family in Cuba. Videos show shootings and beatings.
“There is no communication whatsoever. We don’t know what’s going on,” Collada said. “We are just hoping and praying that their strong, valiant, Cuban heart has kept them alive.”
Cubans’ rare acts of desperation made headlines worldwide. Cuban Americans in South Florida said it’s not enough. They want the U.S. and the international community to respond with decisive actions.
“We are not asking for more food or more medicine or more any other help. The only help we need is to take down the communists in Cuba. That’s the intervention we need,” said Marly Dalmoral, a Miami-Dade protester in Tamiami Park where hundreds attended a rally to mark the anniversary of a 1994 massacre.
Protesters also met outside of the U.S. Southern Command headquarters Tuesday night in Doral. There were similar road-block protests on highways in Tampa and Jacksonville. Cuban Americans are planning to continue demonstrations Wednesday.
Sanchez said FHP is ready to keep people safe.
“Through this process, people can call and complain to the Florida Highway Patrol, we work through it,” Sanchez said. “We are working; there is dialogue.”
Coverage on July 12
Coverage on July 11
For more about the situation in Cuba in Spanish, visit the Local 10 News “en español” page.