Republicans echo demonstrators’ call to assist Cuba as protests continue in Central Florida

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. — For the fifth day in a row, Cuban flags could be seen waving throughout the Orlando area, as people demonstrated on sidewalks in support of friends and family back home.

The demonstration was smaller than in past days, though it appeared many people were resting before one or more major events planned for the weekend.

“I thought there was going to be a lot more people, with how many people were talking about it,” Genna Cruz said. “Everybody’s posting [a Saturday rally] everywhere. So hopefully, it’ll turn out the way everybody’s saying it will.”

READ: Channel 9 gets tour of Belle Isle condo seen deteriorating in photos

Time and time again, demonstrators have told WFTV that their motivation was pressuring the American government to act against the Cuban regime.

Not only is the community tired of decades of oppression, the island is short on food and medical supplies. COVID-19 is infecting more people, and vaccines are scarce. Reports emerged showing long lines for basic items, before the dictatorship cut off the internet.

“Stop with blah blah blah Biden. I hear blah blah blah for 62 years!” Neredya O’Neil, a Cuban-American, said, sounding frustrated. “I came to this country because of that reason. We need action and Cuba people need you now.”

READ: Here’s how to find out if Orange County Clerk of Courts owes you a check

Throughout the week, the response from Republican lawmakers has echoed O’Neil. Officials, particularly Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) have repeatedly called for quick and decisive action to help ordinary Cubans.

“I’m calling for the president to immediately authorize and allocate funding to provide emergency connectivity to the internet for Cuba,” he said during a recorded video posted to his Twitter account.

The party that actually controls Washington has been more muted and less cohesive. Florida’s Democratic lawmakers have spent the past week lobbying their peers — including President Joe. Biden — to make a move.

READ: Cuban protests are ‘beginning of a movement,’ expert says

“We are in a bipartisan fashion supporting resolutions and efforts to encourage the Biden administration to take steps,” state Rep. Darren Soto (D) said.

Soto said he recently signed a resolution and was preparing to vote for a spending bill that would address some outstanding demands. He said lawmakers’ leverage was in their power of the purse.

“All parties now agree that the internet access is critical, because that is what is allowing folks to communicate and share the depressed conditions in Cuba and organize,” he said, in agreement with Rubio.

READ: DeSantis presses Biden to help keep internet flowing in Cuba

Biden addressed many of the demands on Thursday, saying that some actions he’d like to take, such as sending vaccine doses to the island, weren’t feasible because he believed the regime may misuse them.

He said that providing the island with outside internet access was currently on the table and under review, to see if American firms had the technology to do it.

PHOTOS: Demonstrations in support of Cuba continue in Orlando

Adam Poulisse, WFTV.com

Adam Poulisse joined WFTV in November 2019.