Thousands of Cuban-Americans descended on the White House to call on President Joe Biden to do more for Cuba saying the sanctions he imposed last week are not enough after the Communist government’s recent crackdown on protesters.
Repeatedly, the crowd called for Biden to intervene in Cuba on humanitarian grounds and called on the international community to condemn the human rights abuses and support democracy.
Among those in the crowd were activists like Luis Enrique Ferrer, a former political prisoner who was imprisoned in 2003 during Cuba’s Black Spring and exiled to Spain in 2010. His brother, Jose Daniel Ferrer, is the founder of Cuba’s largest pro-democracy dissident group, The Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU), and has been missing since he was detained on July 11, after the protests.
Ferrer said the situation on the island is critical and many protesters and dissidents have been detained and their whereabouts and fates are unknown to their families.
“Now is the time for the free world, the European Union, the United States government, international organizations like the Organization of American States, the United Nations, etcetera – the ones who are supposedly defending all that is good in the world, freedom and democracy – to get on the side of the Cuban people – a people who are barefoot, hungry and weaponless, and are on the streets asking for freedom. They’re being arrested, beaten, tortured. More than 1,000 people have disappeared in Cuba, including my brother Jose Daniel Ferrer and (activists) Felix Navarro, Angel Moya along with others from the opposition including many from small towns whose names we don’t even know and who are, right now, suffering in the hands of the dictatorship, being beaten and tortured, and we don’t know what is going to happen to them. The free world must stand with those suffering people and tell the dictatorship, ‘Enough!” he said.
Pedro Rodriguez, a 34-year-old Miami resident who is originally from Havana, said the time to act is now.
“The people hit the streets very clearly demanding freedom. That’s what my people are demanding: freedom. No one is begging for anything. Right now, we are asking the Biden administration to urgently go there because at this moment, as we’re talking to the media, there are people dying on the streets, who are being killed, who are being beaten, who are being tortured. And the prisons right now, the hallways of the prisons, are full of blood. And we want freedom for the 11 million political prisoners throughout the island, because it’s everyone, that’s an island prison. That large island is a prison and please, we want President Biden to intervene in Cuba already,” he said.
U.S. politicians, several of whom are Cuban-American, spoke to the crowd. Among them was U.S. Senator Mario Diaz-Balart of Florida.
“Make no mistake: make no mistake! We’re not here to beg. This isn’t about aspirin. This isn’t about remittances. This is for the Cuban people’s freedom!” he said.
U.S. Congressman Dan Crenshaw (Rep-TX) called on Biden to be firm.
“Over 30 years ago, Ronald Reagan demanded that Communists tear down this wall. And we need to hear that from (U.S. President) Joe Biden today: Tear down this wall! Tear down this wall of oppression. Tear down 60 years of abuse and torture and suppression of freedom. It must end now. It must be sent to the ash heap of history,” he said.
After the rally, thousands marched the 1.8 miles (2.9 kilometers) to the Cuban embassy, where they chanted, “Freedom!” and “Down with the dictators!”
Last week, the United States imposed sanctions on a Cuban security minister and an interior ministry special forces unit for alleged human rights abuses during a crackdown on anti-government protests earlier this month against an economic crisis, the government’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic and recent curbs on civil rights.
At least one person died and hundreds of activists were detained. Some are missing and others have been sentenced to prison in speedy trials without legal representation, their families have said.