MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Chanting “we are not afraid,” thousands of Cubans took to the streets Sunday to demand the end of the communist dictatorship.
The COVID crisis has only exacerbated the unrest on the island nation, which is why protesters also called for food and vaccines.READ MORE: Fourth Stimulus Check: Will You See Another Relief Payment?
Local leaders took to social media in support of the demonstrations.
“We stand united with the Cuban people on the island and across our community at this historic moment in the struggle for freedom, dignity, and basic human rights,” wrote Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava on Twitter. “May their courageous actions bring about real change and move us closer to the dream of a free Cuba.”
We stand united with the Cuban people on the island and across our community at this historic moment in the struggle for freedom, dignity, and basic human rights – may their courageous actions bring about real change and move us closer to the dream of a free Cuba. #SOSCuba https://t.co/1YzrPd8UDF
— Daniella Levine Cava (@MayorDaniella) July 11, 2021
“We’ve never seen anything like this before,” Rep. María Elvira Salazar wrote on Twitter. “The Cuban people are determined to be free.”
Tens of thousands of people in #Cuba are protesting at this very moment.
The regime is shutting off the internet on the island. The Castro dictatorship doesn’t want the world to see what’s happening.
— María Elvira Salazar 🇺🇸 (@MaElviraSalazar) July 11, 2021
Her fellow Republican, Marco Rubio, also took to Twitter, writing “Frustration with the dictatorships incompetence, greed and repression is mounting rapidly.”
Frustration with the dictatorships incompetence,greed & repression is mounting rapidly pic.twitter.com/eSAr8Xrxpf
— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) July 11, 2021
Rubio then shared video on Twitter of “Communist repression squads” getting into a truck, presumably heading toward the demonstrations to break them up.
Here come the Communist repression squads in #Cuba
Still largely being ignored so far by US corporate media outlets. pic.twitter.com/ldprYCmk46
— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) July 11, 2021
In a statement, Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart called for U.S. to rise up in support of the island nation.
“Now more than ever, the United States and the international community must support the Cuban people in their struggle for freedom. The humanitarian crisis Cuba faces right now is yet another symptom of the incompetence and absolute cruelty of the Cuban tyranny,” he said. “We know what freedom means for the Cuban people, and now, while the regime uses savage violence against the people peacefully demonstrating in the streets, the world has the obligation to stand with the brave Cuban people.”
As a result of the unrest, Miami Mayor Francis Suarez and members of the city commission gathered Sunday evening for a press conference to discuss the latest developments out of Cuba.READ MORE: Miami-Dade Students Honored For 'Doing The Right Thing" And Helping Save Lives
The 5 p.m. presser was live streamed on all of the city’s social media channels.
At the same time the Miami City Commission held its presser, the Democracy Movement gathered for a demonstration outside of Versailles.
“The Movement also invites the exile community to be present and show their support to the Cuban people that at this time are demanding their civil rights and are expressing their discontent with the oppressive Castro Diaz Canel regime,” the group said in a statement.
It was an emotional day for Andrew Suarez, who fled the communist country just years ago.
“It is magical. I am actually more emotional by the fact that I am seeing this happen in Cuba. That is something very difficult. We can do this we live in freedom. We live in a system that allows us to express ourselves,” he said at the Versailles gathering.
WEB EXTRA: Hundreds Gather Outside Miami’s Versailles Restaurant In Support Of Cuba
Miami Police Chief Art Acevedo announced the department shut down SW 8 Street for east- and westbound traffic between SW 32nd Avenue and SW 37 Avenue as a result of the demonstration.
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The area between S.W. 32-37 Avenue on 8th Street is being secured by @MiamiPD in support of a demonstration and to ensure the safety of all participants. Please avoid the area and definitely as we continue monitoring. @ArtAcevedo pic.twitter.com/jUt4wjQ8KE
— Miami PD (@MiamiPD) July 11, 2021
Stay with CBSMiami.com for updates on this developing story.