JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Supporters gathered Saturday afternoon at the former site of the Jacksonville Landing said they have to keep the fight alive as they continue to call for freedom and better living conditions in Cuba.
This weekend, historic protests will continue across the U.S and in Jacksonville. The rally at 2 p.m. Saturday was just one of many demonstrations happening in the River City this week.
“As long as they’re going in Cuba, we’re going here, and really we’re not going to quit until they’re free,” protester Adriel Munoz said Saturday.
It’s been almost a week since protests began in Cuba and Cubans and their supporters said they’ve fought too long to stop now. Dozens of people at Riverfront Plaza expressed their frustrations with what’s happening in Cuba.
“I have an aunt and uncle, cousins. They’re all living in fear of what’s going on,” Munoz said. “They’re being starved, dying in the hospitals. It’s crazy. If our government doesn’t respond, we’re completely weaponless. There’s nothing we can do at this point.”
Friday night, a group in Jacksonville headed to the nation’s capital where they rallied outside of the White House on Saturday.
Yeneisy Cruz lives in Jacksonville, but traveled to Washington, D.C., Saturday.
“People are seeing a massive protest that we feel so proud of. A group of Jacksonville Cubans are here,” Cruz said.
She said thousands of people supporting Cuba have been at the White House gates Saturday.
President Joe Biden this week said he would consider humanitarian aid for people in Cuba if he could assure the Cuban government wouldn’t intercept the assistance. He also said they are looking into whether the U.S. can restore the now restricted internet access for Cubans.
“It’s sad that we can’t see our family. We can’t even communicate with them because the internet doesn’t work,” Lianet Perez said. “We can’t call them and say, ‘Hey, are you OK?’ or, ‘Are you in prison?’ or, ‘Are you dead?’”
She said anything the Biden administration can do would make a difference.
“I want my Cuba to be free,” Perez said.
Cruz said they’ll leave Sunday, but plan to go back to Washington, D.C., next weekend.
“It’s a huge protest, so we think that the president is going to hear us,” Cruz said.
Those living in Cuba and people supporting them want them to have better living conditions. Right now, there is a food shortage and a lack of medicine.
Just a few days ago, the Cuban government lifted customs restrictions on food, medicine and hygiene products.
That’s a change expected to last through the rest of this year.
There’s also a spike in COVID-19 cases and Cuba just set a record for coronavirus-related deaths on Thursday. Florida lawmakers are calling for even more changes, including potentially helping restore internet access in Cuba.
The protesters are also calling on the U.S. government to help. They said they want their message to be clear.
“We started speaking in Spanish. We started marching in Spanish because that’s where our passion is at,” Munoz said. “We’ve now translated things into English because we’re fed up. We’re tired, and we’re not going to stop until things are taken care of.”
They said they’ll continue to protest until their point is made.
Another protest for a Free Cuba is planned for 4 p.m. Sunday.