TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and Lt. Gov. Jeanette Nuñez were at the Freedom Tower in Miami, Fla. the morning that worldwide protests against the Cuban government were expected to unfold. The governor pledged to include a $25 million fund to restore and renovate Freedom Tower to preserve its history for future generations.
DeSantis started the news conference by saying he was grateful to be standing in the freest state in the country, and comparing the symbolism of freedom that the tower represents to Liberty Hall in Philadelphia.
“You’re talking about 90 miles away, freedom versus destitution,” DeSantis said. The governor said they would be making a big announcement at the location, on the stage of the historic landmark.
The event featured signs reading “Patria y Vida,” meaning “homeland and life,” which has become a unifying phrase of protest against the Cuban government. The 15NCuba protests, with expected events in multiple locations across Florida and the world, come as calls for Cuban liberation continue both on the island and abroad.
Freedom Tower is a national historic landmark, known in United States history as the location that Cubans fleeing their homes would be processed in Florida upon arrival in the 1960s, during the Cuban Revolution.
“You have people fighting against a brutal dictatorship,” DeSantis said. He said the people of Cuba probably hadn’t expected the regime to last as long as it did. Pointing to the “destruction of Venezuela” and the “sham elections” in Nicaragua, DeSantis said that the “cancer” of communism had “metastasized” in the Western Hemisphere.
Pointing back to July, DeSantis said many people had been targeted by the Cuban government and falsely imprisoned as protests unfolded across the island nation. DeSantis said the United States and President Joe Biden should be and should have done more to free Cuba from its communist regime.
“We need to do more as a country to stand for people who are standing for freedom,” DeSantis said.
“You’ve had almost no support whatsoever from the Biden administration,” DeSantis said. “I think they’re missing a historic opportunity to make common cause with people who just want to live in freedom.”
“The state of Florida stands with everybody that’s taking to the streets, everybody that’s protesting, everybody who wants to have a better life, and we will continue to do that,” DeSantis said. “I only hope that the Biden administration can see fit to provide that support, because so far they’ve provided none.”
In the upcoming legislative budget, DeSantis is asking for a $25 million investment to preserve Freedom Tower for future generations.
“It’s getting close to being 100 years old, it does need some major repairs and restoration, these are needed to ensure that it’ll continue to stand here as a symbol of freedom and opportunity for decades to come. what we’ll be able to do with this funding is complete structural repairs that are very urgent, conserve and restore architectural components, make the building more accessible for people with disabilities, install museum quality climate control and security systems to safeguard the Cuban-American history stored here and reimagine and redesign the exhibits displaying that history to make it more engaging for all ages.”
DeSantis said it’s very important to remember the history and make sure the efforts to find freedom by Cubans looking for a better life are preserved.
“We need to be good stewards of this history, we need to make sure that people understand what this means, particularly in subsequent generations,” DeSantis said. He said he wants to make sure that the history is remembered for decades to come.
In South Florida, DeSantis said “People are very sensitive about liberty, they’re very sensitive about having a free society, because they’ve seen it taken away. And now we’re in a situation that if they take it away from us here, we don’t have a place that we’re able to escape to so this is really freedom’s last stand.”
The governor said he believes there will be strong support for the project from the state legislature, and said he was proud to put the funding in the budget plan.
Nuñez spoke next. She called Freedom Tower a beacon of inspiration to those that call Florida home.
“As Gov. DeSantis has said many times, the Freedom Tower is the embodiment of the American dream, and the Cuban-American people hold that dream firmly in their fingertips,” Nuñez said. “The thing about this wonderful piece of history is the dream, the dreams that were shattered and simultaneously commenced at the same time.”
Nuñez said that she was proud of the $25 million investment they’re putting into preserving Freedom Tower as protesters demand freedom in Cuba, and that “for the first time we’ve seen the chink in the Cuban communist armor. And that’s fear,” she said.
“They are afraid, they’re afraid of the Cuban people, they’re afraid that the Cuban people will seize what is rightfully theirs. And today, the rallying cry of Patria y Vida is heard through every major city town and province,” Nuñez continued. “Not just in Cuba, but here in the Untied States as well, and actually throughout the whole world. And they’re bold and they’re indignant, and their demands for freedom after six decades of repression and misery can no longer be ignored.”
The Lt. Gov. criticized the Biden administration for not “doing the bare minimum” of even helping provide internet access to the Cuban people amid their protests and calls for change. She called for the president and his administration to do more, but said they were “too fearful of the radical left wing that controls” the Democratic party.
Instead, Nuñez said that the governor, the state administration, and the “free state of Florida” stands with the Cuban people.
Other speakers from Miami-Dade College and larger community thanked the governor for his support and commitment to preserving the history of the Freedom Tower and his leadership in Florida.
DeSantis took the podium again, criticizing the “pathetic” response to the Cuban people’s call for help.
“We do need the Biden administration to step up to the plate and get on the right side here, and help those folks who just want to have their voice heard,” DeSantis said. “We’ll be watching. And we’re going to make sure that we are speaking with one voice here in the state of Florida.”
The governor said he was confident that the legislature would approve the budget request, and that the state was in good shape, financially as a result of good management and the state “was in strong position.” He said the $25 million investment would be a good benefit, even if it just teaches young people the history, the struggles, and the meaning of the Tower, then that would be worth it on its own.