Miami — Florida governor Ron DeSantis urged federal leaders to re-establish internet in Cuba as communist officials on the island nation continue to crack down on protests that have erupted there.
Speaking Tuesday afternoon at a roundtable of Florida political leaders and activists in the Cuban exile community, DeSantis also said it is a “fundamental misreading of what’s going on in Cuba” to assume the protests are about the lack of coronavirus vaccines or other “tangential issues.”
“They are revolting against a corrupt communist dictatorship that has ruled that island for over 60 years, that is responsible for death and destruction,” DeSantis said. “At the end of the day, this is a revolt for fundamental reasons.”
Thousands of Cubans took to the streets on Sunday to protest against the authoritarian regime of president Miguel Diaz-Canel, who succeeded the Castro brothers after their 60 years in power. The protesters can be seen on videos circulating on social media chanting slogans like “Freedom!” “Down with Communism!” and “We are not afraid!” Shortly after videos began going viral, Cuban authorities moved to restrict domestic access to social media sites, which were also being used to swiftly organize protests.
DeSantis said he would be reaching out to companies on the state’s Space Coast to explore options of re-establishing internet in Cuba using satellite technology. Several attendees reiterated the importance of re-establishing communication during the unrest.
“They don’t want the truth to be out,” DeSantis said of Cuba’s communist leaders. “They don’t want people to be able to communicate.”
When asked how he would respond if he was president, DeSantis — a potential 2024 presidential candidate — said “I’m happy being governor of Florida,” and turned the floor over to some of the Cuban-American leaders and activists in the room. They said American supporters of the Cuban protesters need to remain calm and focused.
They said the Biden administration should not negotiate with the Cuban dictatorship. They also called for more targeted sanctions and financial support for the island’s dissidents.
Congressman Carlos Gimenez, who was born in Cuba, said the protests are not about food or vaccines. The Cuban people, he said, are simply “fed up” with the dictatorship.
“When the Cuban people no longer fear the Cuban government, it’s the beginning of the end,” he said.
Congresswoman Maria Elvira Salazar called on President Joe Biden to side with Miami’s Cuban exile community. The U.S., she said, cannot abandon the Cuban people as after the failed Bay of Pigs invasion.
“This is the second time … the United States has the possibility of saving the Cuban people,” Salazar said. “It is in the hands of the Biden administration. We’re all together, Republicans and Democrats, one voice, Americans helping the Cubans in the streets.”
The roundtable was held at the American Museum of the Cuban Diaspora.