US lawmakers show support for Cuban people amid anniversary of historic protests

WASHINGTON – Tuesday marks two years since historic protests paralyzed the island of Cuba as hundreds took to the streets calling for change.

And Monday, there was a bipartisan show of support for the Cuban people.

Members of Congress from both parties took part in a roundtable about the future of Cuba.

Monday’s roundtable included more talk of sanctions and providing communications to Cubans on the island.

“This is about freedom. This isn’t a Republican issue. This isn’t a Democrat issue,” Rep. Mike Waltz, R-Florida, said.

“We cannot allow the continued repression. We have to continue to apply sanctions,” Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Florida, said.

Also on the wish list for Cuba is free and fair elections, freedom of expression and the release of political prisoners.

Following the protests, human rights groups say close to 1,900 Cubans were detained. More than 780 remain in jail. A total of 911 were prosecuted and sanctioned, and about 90 are in exile.

“It’s not tobaccos music and old cars, it’s prisoners tortured (and) suffering,” said Bettina Rodriguez Aguilera, member of the Outreach Aid to the Americas.

“I think that what we’re seeing is like never before,” said said Orlando Gutierrez, coordinator of the Assembly of the Cuban Resistance. An international focus on human rights violations in Cuba, on the people responsible for violations and the willingness to pursue all legal means to bring them to justice.”

But after 60 plus years of a Castro regime and decades of a struggle so familiar for those living here in South Florida, you may wonder what’s different now.

“Something called internet, social media and famine. Cubans have nothing to eat at this hour,” Rep. Maria Elvira Salazar, R-Florida, said.

There’s now more talk of sanctions, providing communications to Cubans on the island and deep concern over the role China seems to be playing in Cuba.

“This is a serious national security threat to the United States,” Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Florida, said.

“There is a spy station that China has now set up just 90 miles from where we sit today,” Rep. Mike McCaul, R-Texas, added.

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About the Author:

Annaliese Garcia joined Local 10 News in January 2020. Born and raised in Miami, she graduated from the University of Miami, where she studied broadcast journalism. She began her career at Univision. Before arriving at Local 10, she was with NBC2 (WBBH-TV) covering Southwest Florida. She's glad to be back in Miami!