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DeSantis calls on Biden to help restore internet access to Cuba as protesters continue to take to streets of South Florida

Governor says protesters have been peaceful, but authorities will not tolerate blocking roadways

Protesters in South Florida continue to take to the streets to call for freedom in Cuba
Protesters in South Florida continue to take to the streets to call for freedom in Cuba

MIAMI LAKES, Fla. – Gov. Ron DeSantis made an appearance in South Florida Thursday, alongside other leaders from Miami-Dade County, to call on the Biden administration to help restore internet access to Cuba.

“The one thing communists fear the most is the truth,” the governor said.

Authorities in Cuba blocked social media sites earlier this week in an apparent effort to stop the flow of information into, out of and within the beleaguered nation. Restricting internet access has become a tried-and-true method of stifling dissent by authoritarian regimes around the world, alongside government-supported disinformation campaigns and propaganda.

DeSantis said it won’t be an overnight fix, but said the U.S. is capable of helping restore internet access on the island.

REPLAY: Gov. Ron DeSantis, other leaders hold news conference in Miami amid Cuba protests

Earlier in the morning, drivers honked their horns in support of the Cuban-Americans who were protesting at the intersection of Northwest 154th Street and Northwest 82nd Avenue in Miami Lakes as the protesters demanded freedom for the Cuban people.

“We’ve suffered for so long and we are here to represent our families and everyone who is still stuck in Cuba who has not been able to have at least the basic necessities of life,” protest organizer Vanessa Wong said.

DeSantis on Thursday praised protesters for remaining peaceful, but said blocking roads and highways, which happened Tuesday on the Palmetto Expressway, will not be tolerated.

“We can’t have that,” he said.

But many say the governor is not backing up his words as the Florida Highway Patrol let the busy highway shut down on Tuesday, even though troopers blocked Black Lives Matter protesters from getting on I-95 last year.

No arrests were made in either incident.

During Thursday’s protest in Miami Lakes, no roadways were blocked by demonstrators.

“It’s time that we seek a change and we ask for help from our representatives,” Wong said.

The rally comes a day after protesters in Miami marched for 5 miles in a demonstration of unity toward the civil unrest in Cuba.

“What’s going on on the island is really bad,” one man said. “If people go online and look for it, you’re going to see (it) all. They’re pulling kids out of houses, how they’re beating up people in the street for no reason.”

Florida's governor talks about protesters blocking traffic, Biden wants to help get internet to Cuba
Florida's governor talks about protesters blocking traffic, Biden wants to help get internet to Cuba

Demonstrators on Wednesday began their march at Cafe Versailles in Little Havana.

They ended up downtown at the Freedom Tower, a landmark considered the “Ellis Island of the South” for its role in the 1960s and 1970s as the U.S. Cuban Assistance Center, which offered relief to refugees who sought political asylum from Fidel Castro’s regime.

“This is the Freedom Tower, and it represents freedom,” one man said. “Most of the people, when they first came here, when the first exiles (came) in the ’60s, this is where they came. This is where they came to get their paperwork and stuff done.”

Activists say Cubans are tired of the communist-run government and want political change.

They’re dealing with shortages of food, medicine and COVID-19 vaccines, as well as power outages and internet connection problems amid a worsening economy.

At the FTX Arena, there’s an electronic sign that says “Libertad,” which means “freedom,” and #SOSCuba, which is the hashtag that protesters both here in South Florida and in Cuba have been using on Twitter in a desperate plea for humanitarian intervention.

The Brickell Run Club will be hosting a three-mile run for Cuba at 7 p.m. Friday starting at the Bay of Pigs monument in Little Havana.


About the Authors:

Madeleine Wright is a general assignment reporter for Local 10 News. She joined the team in March 2017.

Amanda Batchelor is the managing editor for Local10.com.