Florida politicians on both sides of the aisle are lining up to support the Cuban people, as their fight for independence underscores the political importance of Cuban Americans and their votes.
Wednesday morning at Jose Marti Park in Ybor City, Congresswoman Kathy Castor (D-Tampa) teamed up with State Sen. Janet Cruz (D-Tampa), city councilman Luis Viera, and Hillsborough tax collector Nancy Milan to deliver remarks in support of the Cuban people.
“This is about basic human rights, like food, water, health care,” said Castor, getting emotional when she noted that some of her own staff can’t get in touch with family members in Cuba right now.
Viera said it is a complicated issue, but there should be no equivocation about how the Cuban government has strangled the life out of its people for decades.
The main differences between politicians on the Cuba issue center around what policy prescriptions would help the Cuban people most.
Viera personally believes that should include more engagement with the U.S.
“What that level of engagement is, what it’s predicated on, is certainly the devil in the details,” Viera said. “But we ought to have some sort of an engagment as was begun under President Obama.”
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Florida) disagrees, and believes more engagement will only help the Cuban government, not its people. In a video posted to social media, he said he’s pressuring the Biden administration to rally America’s allies.
“Convene the United Nations,” said Rubio. “Pressure or shame the international community to condemning and isolating that regime to prevent a massacre, a bloodbath. Not in middle east…90 miles from our shores.”
All five Republicans who represent Tampa Bay in Congress cosponsored a resolution backing Cubans in their fight for freedom.
The resolution calls for the release of all political prisoners and for the end of acts of repression, arbitrary imprisonments, torture, and other human rights abuses against the Cuban people” and “urges other democracies…to affirm that violence against the unarmed people of Cuba will not be tolerated.”
There is political posturing as well over the policing of these protests.
Two of the protesters arrested in Tampa on Tuesday are believed to be the first in the Bay Area to be held without bond under Florida’s new “anti-riot” law, according to their charging documents.
Governor Ron DeSantis introduced the measures that became HB1, the “anti-riot” law, last summer in the wake of the police killing of George Floyd.
When pressed by a reporter why these pro-Cuban protesters shouldn’t be arrested for blocking highways, DeSantis tried to draw a distinction between them and the protesters last summer.
“[These protests] are not necessarily designed to be peaceful, they are trying to end the regime,” said DeSantis. “So, that is fundamentallly different than what we saw last summer where people were burning down buildings, and this, fortunately, wasn’t happening in Florida in any large extent.”
Cruz said what’s most important is helping the Cuban people, but on this issue, the governor’s explanation didn’t hold up.
“I just want to warn folks that we have a double standard here and I don’t want to find them arrested for demonstrating about what they’re so passionate about,” Cruz said.