Thousands of protesters gathered in front of the White House on Sunday night to demand that the Biden administration do more to support anti-government demonstrators in Cuba.
Some protesters called for military intervention, others said they wanted food and supplies sent directly to the Cuban people instead of to the government. Providing internet access to the island also was an expressed priority.
The Miami Herald reported more demonstrators were expected to arrive by Monday, a national holiday in Cuba and the date Fidel Castro led his first attack against the Batista government in 1953.
"We saw a lot of people on I-95 with Cuban flags and messages on their cars," 27-year-old Chris Cruz, a Hialeah, Florida, resident who emigrated from Cuba seven years ago, told the Herald.
"[Monday] is going to be intense but I know people will keep their cool."
The Herald reported the mood among the demonstrators into early Monday morning was largely festive, with constant chants of "Libertad," and "Patria y Vida" ("Homeland and Life").
Rep. María Elvira Salazar, R-Fla., joined the group and tweeted video of flag-waving protesters in front of the White House. She added the words: "#SOSCuba🇨🇺The #CubanAmerican community is at the @WhiteHouse demanding freedom for #Cuba."
Maria Fundora, who leads a Texas-based group called Cuba Libre, said at least 18 buses left from Miami and only three had arrived in Washington by Sunday evening. Caravans from Tampa, Florida, and Texas also were expected.
"Have you ever seen anything like this?" asked Fundora, who added the last two weeks had stirred up so much emotion that she "can’t concentrate."
Fundora, 59, said she favors military intervention in Cuba and noted the U.S. military presence in Guantanamo Bay. She said Biden’s response to the protests in Cuba so far "guarantees a Trump 2024 ticket."
"All [the military needs] to do is open the gate," Fundora told the Herald. "We went into Kuwait, Somalia and didn’t ask for anyone’s permission. We went in and killed Osama Bin Laden and didn’t ask anyone. Are you telling me someone from Cuba needs to do something as horrible as 9/11 to get the U.S. to do something?"
The Biden administration has announced its support of the protesters and has also leveled sanctions.
"I think Cuba needs a human intervention, not bombs," Alex Perez, 27, told the Herald. "Biden should not only say what is the right thing to do, he should do it."
The protesters included people who arrived in the U.S. after fleeing the socialist regime.
"I’m 27 and I never thought I would live to see something like this," Perez told the Herald. "We need to make sure there’s pressure for people who didn’t have to go through what I went through to know what’s going on in Cuba."
Pro-democracy protests broke out across Cuba on July 11, when people took to the streets to protest against Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel and the socialist government amid shortages of goods, rising prices, and power cuts.
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