Hundreds of Cuban Americans gathered in Tampa on Friday to protest against communism and the visit of the Cuban ambassador to the United States.
The protest, which local Cuban American groups organized, occurred outside the Tampa Convention Center, where Cuban ambassador Lázaro Cárdenas was scheduled to speak at a business conference.
Protesters waved Cuban flags and held signs with slogans such as “Cuba libre” and “Down with communism.” Some also chanted “Libertad!” (Freedom!)
One of the protest organizers, Maria Perez, said that the visit of the Cuban ambassador was a slap in the face to the Cuban American community.
“We are here to let him know that we do not support the communist regime in Cuba and that we will continue to fight for the freedom of the Cuban people,” Perez said.
Many protesters fled Cuba during the 1960s and 1970s following the revolution led by Fidel Castro.
One of them, Roberto Hernandez, said that the situation in Cuba had only gotten worse since then.
“I left Cuba because of communism, and I will never stop fighting against it,” Hernandez said. “I have family in Cuba suffering from this regime, and I want to see them free.”
The visit of the Cuban ambassador to Tampa comes at a time of heightened tensions between the United States and Cuba. In recent years, the two countries have engaged in a diplomatic thaw, but relations soured again after the protests in Cuba in July 2022.
The protests, the largest in Cuba in decades, were sparked by a severe economic crisis and a surge in COVID-19 cases. Protesters called for ending the communist regime and greater freedoms and economic opportunities.
The Cuban government responded by cracking down on the protests, arresting hundreds of people, and cutting off internet access to prevent the spread of information.
The United States and other countries condemned the crackdown and called for the release of the protesters.
The visit of the Cuban ambassador to Tampa is part of a broader effort by the Cuban government to improve its image abroad and attract foreign investment.
However, many Cuban Americans remain deeply opposed to the communist regime and view the visit as an affront to their struggle for freedom and democracy.