With the Cuban people taking to the streets Monday, Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried is backing protesters challenging the Cuban government.
Monday’s planned protests come nearly four months after widespread demonstrations made waves in the U.S. and worldwide before the Cuban government cracked down and cut off internet access. Now, the Cuban people are reportedly looking to return to those protests to demand basic necessities — such as food and adequate health care — and rebuke the repressive regime.
“As I speak to you today, there are brave men and women in the streets of Cuba screaming for freedom; screaming for the ability to govern themselves; screaming for respect for human rights; screaming to be heard by the international community; and screaming to share those same God-given rights that we are blessed with here in the United States,” Fried said in a Monday video.
“And to them I say: We hear you and we stand with you. We stand against the Cuban regime who has for over 60 years continued to oppress the Cuban people and their right to live without fear or oppression.”
Monday also marks the day Cuba will reopen for international travel. Cuban officials had looked to highlight that milestone, but protesters are looking to spotlight the continued abuses suffered under the current government. It’s unclear whether Monday’s demonstrations will match those seen this past July.
Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel has responded by cracking down on several Cubans who planned to protest Monday. Meanwhile, members of the international community — including parts of South Florida — have organized their own events to back the Cuban people’s right to speak out.
Cubans have unofficially rallied around the phrase “Patria y Vida,” or “Homeland and Life.” The phrase is a play on the slogan “Homeland or Death,” which has been used as Cuba’s motto under the communist regime.
“Patria y Vida is not just a saying. It is a way of life for those brave men and women on the island,” Fried added Monday. “It is not about left or right, but rather what is right and wrong. So I will say this: If you stand for liberty, democracy, freedom, and against the Cuban dictatorship, then you stand with the Cuban people.”
But the protests — like most other facets of life these days — have been used as a political cudgel.
Democrats and Republicans have largely spoken out against the Cuban government in recent months. Fried, a Democrat, is seeking the 2022 gubernatorial nomination. But during July’s wave of protests, Republicans hammered Democratic President Joe Biden, arguing he did not do enough to help provide internet access to the island and otherwise support the protesters.
Fried made her position clear in her Monday morning statement.
“I stand with the Cuban people. And I invite you all to join me in this fight to make real change — not just rhetoric or finger pointing, but real action for real change,” Fried said.
“I am confident that together, with our democratic allies and partners around the world, we can support the Cuban people on their mission to determine their own future and, God-willing, we will see the Cuban people free again.”