Cuban demonstrations come to American shores, but with a twist

AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa

The demonstrations in Cuba that began over the weekend obviously captured the attention of the world. The numbers of the demonstrators in the streets of Havana and other cities seemed to diminish in the days that followed as the government cracked down on them and locked up several prominent opposition leaders, as we previously discussed. Also, President Miguel Díaz-Canel made a show of promising to get more food into the stores and get the power back on in areas that had been experiencing blackouts, which seemed to satisfy some of them. But by yesterday, the protests had spread beyond the island of Cuba. Crowds took to the streets in Miami Florida, particularly among the Cuban-American community there, marching in solidarity with the people still living under the communist regime. Unfortunately, some of them got a bit carried away and wound up shutting down a major highway. (ABC News)

Demonstrators expressing solidarity with the thousands of Cubans who waged a rare weekend of protests around their island nation shut down a stretch of a major South Florida expressway Tuesday.

The large group gathered at a busy Miami intersection chanting support for the Cubans, who had taken to the streets in the communist nation Sunday to air grievances about poor economic conditions and other complaints.

A few miles (kilometers) away, hundreds of supporters gathered for hours Tuesday evening at a park. The peaceful crowd waved flags and cheered on the efforts of island protesters.

Flavia Pérez, 16, was brought to the U.S. at age 1. She joined the rally at Tamiami Park, saying, “I’m here to support young Cubans on the island so they have the same opportunities as I have in the U.S.”

So it looks like the protests in Miami split up into two groups. One of them was the one that shut down Palmetto Expressway for the afternoon and the other protested peacefully in a public park.

Right up front, I will say that I am definitely sympathetic toward the oppressed people of Cuba who are struggling under a communist regime. I wish them the absolute best if they seek to break free of their oppressive leadership and seek to replace it with a more democratic power structure. And I also support the right of Americans to raise their voices in support of the Cuban people.

With all of that said, however, what was seen on the Palmetto Expressway was not simply peaceful protesting. They were adopting a tactic used during the BLM riots for the last year or more. And no matter what you think of either of their causes, we can’t honestly condemn one while condoning the other. Shutting down a highway without a permit is a dangerous endeavor and they should have known better. Granted, we saw no reports of looting or attacks on police during the demonstration, so it wasn’t nearly as bad as the BLM riots, but it still wasn’t good.

Governor Ron DeSantis was asked about this by reporters during a meeting he hosted at the American Museum of the Cuban Diaspora. After all, DeSantis recently signed new laws outlawing and increasing the penalties for a lot of mob behavior, including shutting down roadways. Sadly, he dismissed the implied criticism, saying that the two situations were far different. He said that the Cuban demonstrators desire “a free society.” He also insisted that the people in Cuba were trying to throw off the yoke of tyranny, not just asking for more food and vaccines.

On the second score, as I noted in my previous article, there is certainly a mix of people taking part in the protests in Cuba. Some are definitely opposed to the communist regime, but others were very vocal about the lack of basic services and supplies. It seemed that members of that latter group headed home pretty quickly after the President promised to address those shortfalls.

None of that, however, addresses the question of the protesters in Miami shutting down the expressway. DeSantis is acting as if that’s perfectly fine because the protesters are supporting a cause that he agrees with. But the law he signed is supposed to apply to everyone equally. He should have called out those protesters and had them moved over to the park so the normal flow of traffic could be restored. He undermines his own credibility by failing to do so.