MIAMI – Cuba’s key allies are Russia and China. Cuban exiles in Miami warned the internet blackouts and arbitrary arrests that Cubans are reporting on the island are straight out of their authoritarian handbook.
Gutiérrez-Boronat, 55, of the Cuban Democratic Directorate, a Miami-based organization that advocates for democracy in Cuba, Nicaragua, and Venezuela, said he fears a violent crackdown.
“We are asking for the international community led by the United States to intervene, to protect the Cuban people from a bloodbath and to bring this regime to an end,” Gutiérrez-Boronat said during a news conference Monday in Miami-Dade County.
The #SOSCuba protesters, who took to the streets in Cuba and Miami, say they want the international community to join the movement for change in the troubled communist island.
Gutiérrez-Boronat had a message for U.S. President Joe Biden: “The vast majority of Cuban Americans, this great voting block, will be grateful to you for helping to bring down this regime.”
President Joe Biden released a statement Monday: “The United States calls on the Cuban regime to hear their people and serve their needs at this vital moment rather than enriching themselves.”
Gutiérrez-Boronat was born in Havana about four years after the failed CIA-backed Bay of Pigs invasion. Some of his family memories in Cuba include his father surviving a work camp.
Gutiérrez-Boronat was a boy when his parents fled the late Fidel Castro’s crush on dissent in 1971 in a “Freedom Flight” to Spain. He also lived in Nicaragua before moving to Miami.
Gutiérrez-Boronat was a young teenager when he was known as “Orlandito” among exiled members of Alpha 66, an anti-Castro paramilitary organization based out of Miami-Dade County.
Gutiérrez-Boronat earned a doctorate from the University of Miami on the philosophy of international studies. He co-founded the Cuban Democratic Directorate, which supports Cuba’s 2018 San Isidro Movement, or MSI, artists against government censorship.
Improvements in internet connectivity in Cuba have helped their cause. Despite restrictions on access to information, most Cubans in Havana were able to access social media on their mobile phones by 2018.
MSI supported a digital campaign against government propaganda known as “Patria y Vida,” Spanish for “Homeland and Life.” Castro’s rallying cry of “Socialism or Death” and Che Guevara’s “Homeland or Death” are on display on billboards and murals around the country.
Many Cuban Americans in South Florida can pin the deaths of their ancestors in Cuba to orders by Castro or Guevara. During their violent uprising, Cuban exiles said dissenters who were caught were either executed or tortured in prison.
Their reign of fear didn’t end after their deaths, but when Raul Castro took power he was more interested in economic reform. The world’s two great communist powers had adopted authoritarian capitalism, so he was open to partnerships on infrastructure.
The Castro regime’s priorities changed and Cuban exiles strategies have shifted. The popular movement for political change in Cuba boiled up into large nationwide protests Sunday and public demonstrations continued Monday. Gutiérrez-Boronat said the protests were unprecedented.
“We are living in key moments in the history of Cuba right now,” Gutiérrez-Boronat said.
U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart wrote he was concerned about reports that José Daniel Ferrer Cantillo Jr. and his father José Daniel Ferrer, of the Patriotic Union of Cuba, or UNPACU, had vanished Sunday afternoon. There was activity on Ferrer’s Twitter account Monday afternoon.
“As the Cuban people are protesting the regime’s malevolence, we must remember that its evils have extended well beyond its borders,” Diaz-Balart wrote.
U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio attributed the “grassroots protests in over 32 cities” to misery, repression, and lies.
“While the socialist’s regime in Cuba is attacking unarmed protestors, the socialist regime in Venezuela is at this very moment moving to abduct President Juan Guaido,” Rubio tweeted Monday afternoon.
Díaz-Canel, Raul Castro’s handpicked successor, also held a news conference Monday in Havana. He blamed it all on the U.S. embargo and its supporters.
“This government is not afraid. We are full of energy, we are full of enthusiasm although it hurts ... It is hard what we are going through but we are convinced that we are going to face it and we are going to win,” Díaz-Canel said in Spanish during his televised speech.
Díaz-Canel also said his administration was being honest about the impact of the coronavirus pandemic in Cuba. While opposition activists say there have been more COVID-19 deaths than the government reports, Cuban officials reported 6,750 cases and 31 deaths.
Protesters said countless patients have died at home without treatment because hospitals have been overwhelmed. Opposition activists say they want the freedom to push for political change.
“A national uprising is taking place against communist tyranny in Cuba,” Gutiérrez-Boronat said.
Other protesters say people need to do whatever it takes to stop the food and medicine shortages in Cuba and get effective vaccines to people’s arms as fast as possible. Cuban and Cuban-American protesters and their supporters say they are tired of the 62-year-old regime’s inability to protect life and dignity.
Related social media
Once again, U.S. oil is bad, while a U.S. adversary's oil is good. It's outrageous that while the #Cuban people are risking everything for freedom, the Biden admin reversed some Trump sanctions on #VZ's oil industry, the very industry which Maduro uses to prop up the Cuban regime— Mario Diaz-Balart (@MarioDB) July 12, 2021
What is it with the Biden administration?— Ted Cruz (@tedcruz) July 12, 2021
The Cuban people are fighting for freedom against an illegitimate tyrannical regime that is willing to torture and kill to stay in power.
American leaders must say so and condemn the regime and its brutality - unequivocally. https://t.co/QpXd4avfMU
The call for freedom and basic rights by the people of Cuba peacefully taking to the streets and marching is an act of great courage. I support the Cuban people in their pursuit of liberty and condemn any violence or targeting of those exercising their rights.— Nancy Pelosi (@SpeakerPelosi) July 12, 2021
Regime in #Cuba will now threaten that a rafter or Mariel style crisis “is inevitable” if the US doesn't stop encouraging protests & return to Obama policy— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) July 12, 2021
We must not cave to blackmail & @potus must warn them that encouraging mass migration will be considered a hostile action
Peaceful protests are growing in #Cuba as the Cuban people exercise their right to peaceful assembly to express concern about rising COVID cases/deaths & medicine shortages. We commend the numerous efforts of the Cuban people mobilizing donations to help neighbors in need.— Julie Chung (@WHAAsstSecty) July 11, 2021
This delayed decision to support the protesters in #Cuba is a reflection of a policy process problem that continues to plague the Biden Administration - they are not making the right calls, at the right time & its costing them credibility. https://t.co/d1jfIa6XJK— Brett Bruen (@BrettBruen) July 12, 2021
For more about the situation in Cuba, visit the Local 10 News’ “en español” page.