Rally for Cuba

Riders in a pickup truck hold Cuban flags as the truck prepares to join a line of vehicles outside The Latin House Tuesday. The parade of vehicles drove down Holmes Drive, Veterans Parkway then Main Street before circling the Colquitt County Courthouse Square. Many drivers honked their horns throughout the procession.

MOULTRIE, Ga. — As Cubans protest their government’s response to economic woes and the coronavirus, people in America with ties to the island nation have also taken to the streets in support.

Even in Moultrie.

Tuesday afternoon, about 40 cars participated in a “ride-around” from The Latin House on Holmes Drive to the Colquitt County Courthouse, one of multiple protests across the country to draw attention to the situation in Cuba.

“What we’re looking for is for people other than in Cuba to know what’s going on in Cuba,” said Javier Alonzo, owner of The Latin House and an organizer of Tuesday’s protest.

Associated Press coverage of the Cuban demonstrations that erupted Sunday said thousands of Cubans in the streets voiced grievances against shortages of goods, rising prices and power cuts, and some protesters have called for a change of government.

Multiple national news sources said the Cuban government blames the U.S. embargo, which was put in place decades ago but was eased under President Barack Obama then re-tightened under President Donald Trump. It also claims Cuban-Americans are instigating the protests in Cuba through social media.

The Cuban government limited access to the island in hopes of protecting residents from the coronavirus. The economy was staggered but the virus gained a foothold anyway. 

As the protests began, the government shut down communications with people outside the country, said Claudia Caballero, who lives in Moultrie after coming to America from Cuba 10 years ago. 

“They didn’t let us go over there and take medicine,” Caballero said. “We want to let our families know we support them.”

Her grandmother, father and brother remain in Cuba, but she hasn’t spoken to them since before Sunday.

“Every time I call, they [the government] cut off the line,” she said.

Details of conditions in Cuba are slipping out over social media, marked with the hashtag #SOSCuba. 

Political leaders, especially U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, Rep. Carlos Gimenez and Gov. Ron Desantis, all of Florida, have helped bring attention to the Cubans’ plight. Florida is home to the United States’ largest Cuban-American community.

The Cuban-American protests — including the one in Moultrie Tuesday — hope collectively to press President Joe Biden to act. Some at Tuesday’s rally said they want deliveries of food and medicine, or at least easing of travel restrictions so that they can take supplies to their families. Others wanted a more permanent solution to the problem.

“Cuba needs help now, military intervention,” said Julia Carmenaty.

Carmenaty came to the U.S. from Cuba six years ago. She has friends in Cuba she can’t reach, so she doesn’t know what’s happened to them.

“People now say, ‘I support Cuba, I support Cuba,’” she said. “Yeah, but what are you doing?”

Carmenaty said gun ownership is illegal in Cuba. The Cuban police have firearms, and residents don’t have a way to resist them. She said many people have died due to deprivation — she said 10 people died when a hospital lost power — and others in violence.

Cuban authorities have acknowledged one death due to the protests, according to an Associated Press story Tuesday.

The Moultrie protest drew not only Cuban immigrants but also those from other Latin American countries, according to Alonzo, who has been in the U.S. more than 30 years.

“I’m very grateful for what America has given me and I just want Cuba to have the same,” he said.

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