Members of the Cuban American community gathered Saturday in front of the State Capitol in Phoenix to demand freedom for their homeland, part of a nearly week-long streak of daily protests in Arizona that began July 11.
According to demonstrators, the protests that have spread across the U.S aim to urge the American government to take part in overthrowing the Cuban regime through military intervention on the island.
Attendees of the rally expressed their dissatisfaction with the Cuban government using chants and banners stating “long live free Cuba” and “down with the dictatorship.”
“We are not fighting against the vaccine shortage. We are not fighting against the lack of food. We are fighting for freedom,” said Ronal Delgado, a Cuban demonstrator.
Since protests began less than a week ago in the streets of San Antonio de los Baños, a municipality near Havana, Cuba, massive marches have taken place in the U.S. and abroad. According to Delgado, there was no particular trigger, nor was there an agreement among the citizens to set off the protests.
“It’s just that the people got tired and went out to the streets,” said Delgado. “It’s been 62 years without freedom, 62 years without food.”
But the current reality of marchers within the borders of Cuba is largely unknown to those abroad. Internet connectivity on the island was shut down on July 11, the same day protests started. Cuban immigrants have lost communication with their families on the island and many fear an aggressive response by the Cuban government to the demonstrations.
Images and videos shared on social media have been for many the only glimpses in events surrounding the protests. Some videos displaying alleged use of violence by members of the local police force in Cuba have taken an emotional toll on the community in the U.S.
Suri Saday, who drove from Tucson to participate in the Phoenix rally, said she has suffered from insomnia and several panic attacks since the protest started July 11.
“Since Sunday I have been devastated. I haven’t slept since,” she said. “We need an intervention. I don’t like wars, but in Cuba they need it.”
Cuba has been ruled by an authoritarian government since the Cuban Revolution in 1959. The Communist Party has had control of the island’s politics ever since.
For more than six decades, the country has faced several humanitarian crises caused by lack of resources. In the last year, these challenges have been compounded by the spread of the COVID 19 pandemic.
Protestors say the only way to defend the rights of Cubans and ensure their access to basic resources is through action from abroad.
“Until there’s an international intervention, there will be no change in Cuba,” said Delgado.
Carlos Alberto Gómez, who has also participated in several Cuban rallies in Arizona, said the people are looking for a more radical change: a new form of government.
“It’s not just about having a little bit more resources,” he said. “They want to be able to choose a president that they know will represent them.”
Protesters said the crisis Cuba faces is greater than those experienced previously and that the human rights violations deserve the attention of international organizations.
“Help is needed from the United States and other nations,” Gomez said. “Cuban citizens deserve as much freedom as any other citizen of another country.”
Reach reporter Laura Daniella Sepúlveda at email@example.com or on Twitter @lauradnews.
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