‘Prayer is our only armor’: Cuba protests calling on U.S. intervention continue in Miami

Protests calling on the U.S. to provide humanitarian help and military intervention in Cuba amid political unrest continued in Miami on Tuesday, this time under rainy skies at the Tamiami Fairgrounds in West Miami-Dade.

Massive marches and demonstrations demanding an end to Cuba’s communist regime began over the weekend on the island as people across the country battle shortages of food, basic necessities and COVID-19 vaccines.

Tuesday’s protest in Miami, where about 300 people gathered, follows a rally on Sunday where about 5,000 people protested at Versailles Restaurant in Little Havana, as well as others across the county, including one earlier in the day that shut down the Palmetto Expressway.

“We have hope that we can have justice. We have hope that the U.S. will intervene so that our people can finally be free!” said Jorge Luis “Antúnez” García Pérez, who was a political prisoner in Cuba for 17 years. “The Cuban government needs to go to hell!”

Before a sea of people wearing raincoats and holding umbrellas, Orlando Gutierrez-Boronat, a spokesperson for the Cuban Democratic Directorate and member of the Assembly of the Cuban Resistance, led the group in chant: “Patria y Vida,” Spanish for “Homeland and Life.”

“God has simultaneously lifted up the people in 30 Cuban cities,” Gutierrez-Boronat said. “Prayer is our only armor, our only weapon.”

The last time Cubans took to the streets to protest against the communist government was in 1994 and Fidel Castro was alive. But that uprising, known as the Maleconazo, only took place in Havana and didn’t last long, as the former Cuban leader quickly turned the demonstrations into a massive exodus after he opened Cuba’s maritime borders. Thousands of Cubans left the island in makeshift boats and rickety rafts, in what became known as the balsero crisis.

The backdrop to Tuesday’s demonstration at Tamiami Park was the Cuban Memorial nearby. The last time people gathered there was in 2016, just hours after the ashes of Fidel Castro, who was 90, were deposited into a crypt in a cemetery in Santiago de Cuba, nine days after he died and was cremated in Havana.

The memorial honors the martyrs of the Cuban regime. About 10,000 names are etched onto the black marble squares at the site, but Cuban human-rights activist Sylvia Iriondo, founder and president of Mothers Against Repression, an organization that fights for the democratization of Cuba, said the total number of victims far exceeds that number.

“May they rest in peace,” García Pérez said as he led the crowd through puddles with a white rose arrangement in hand that he placed at the memorial.

“May you guide us toward freedom as you sit in heaven,” he said amid loud chants while looking at the stormy sky. “Cuba libre!”