MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, Fla. – Hansel Hernandez, a Miami-Dade County resident, said he decided to spend his Tuesday evening with a crowd of #SOSCuba protesters on Okeechobee Road near Hialeah because of the urgency of the situation.
Neither the rain nor the Florida Highway Patrol troopers nearby dissuaded him from joining the demonstration. He said they were disrupting traffic to help deliver the message that Cuban protesters on the communist island risked their lives for Sunday.
“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,” Hernandez said.
The drivers on Okeechobee Road did not appear to be annoyed, as protesters stopped the eastbound lanes’ traffic flow intermittently. Most of the drivers were displaying Cuban and U.S. flags and were honking in solidarity.
“Most of them as you can see are truck drivers. They basically support us,” Hernandez said. “Most of them have work to do ... but they are still stopping ... We haven’t had any issues at all.”
Other Cuban Americans participating in demonstrations in Miami-Dade have said the rare uprising is a sign of the desperation that Cubans are facing. There have been food and medicine shortages. The government hasn’t been able to take hold of the coronavirus pandemic’s public health and economic crises.
“This is them demonstrating about how they feel about their nation,” said FHP Lt. Carlos Venegas said.
Hernandez said the traffic disruptions are a way of raising awareness and helping Cubans on the island to deliver their message. The Cuban government has disrupted internet connectivity. There have been power outages. Officers have raided homes.
Videos on social media show shootings, beatings, and violent arrests. Some Cuban Americans in Miami-Dade County haven’t been able to get in touch with relatives in Havana and other cities. Hernandez and others in Miami-Dade said it’s the duty of those who are living in freedom to help those who are not.
“We need the message to the president: We don’t want diplomatic relations. We don’t want negotiations with the regime,” Hernandez said. “We want closure ... We want the United States to do more.”
Coverage on July 12
Coverage on July 11
For more about the situation in Cuba, visit the Local 10 News’ “en español” page.