Cuba's historic summer protests are over, but not the discontent behind the uprising by thousands of people on the communist island. And now, new questions are emerging as to how the U.S. will decide to engage with its old enemy to help the Cuban people. Scott Thuman reports from Miami on the calls to free Cuba.
Hungry for freedom, food and more in the communist country—Cubans have taken to the streets in a wave of protests larger than the island nation has seen in decades. New videos on social media, appear to show Cuban police violently trying to suppress them.
The chaos in Cuba has triggered demonstrations of support for the protesters here in Miami, Florida, where Cuban-Americans make up almost half of the city’s population.
Carlos Areces: They need support, they need medical assistance, they need food, they need liberty, they need life.
Carola Villageliu: It’s rough for Cubans. Rough for Cubans.
We met Carola Villageliu at the popular Versailles Restaurant in Miami’s Little Havana. She and her family moved to Miami from Cuba over 60 years ago to escape communism.
Scott: Why do you think, right now, we're still seeing a large number of Cubans trying to get here?
Villageliu: I’ve heard and I have read articles that the thing in Cuba now is worse than it's been in a long time.
Food shortages in Cuba grew worse during the Covid pandemic, and when people began to complain online, the Cuban government shut down the country’s internet.
Sen. Bob Menendez: The only time a country shuts off the internet is when they're afraid of the people and their voices.
Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey, a Cuban-American himself, is demanding more American support.
The calls have come from both sides of the aisle. Florida’s Republican Governor Ron DeSantis:
Gov. Ron DeSantis: We are seeing on the island of Cuba, people fighting against the communist dictatorship. That is a noble cause, a free Cuba is a noble cause.
But how to help is an open question. Progressives like Socialist Senator Bernie Sanders and Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez want to remove America’s decades-old embargo against Cuba and allow trade between the two countries. But others say the U.S. embargo is not the problem.
Sen. Menendez: The only embargo that exists on the Cuban people is the one that the regime has against the Cuban people.
Sen. Marco Rubio: That's the first thing they blame. It's the embargo, the embargo’s causing all of this.
Florida Senator and Cuban-American Marco Rubio continues to put pressure on President Joe Biden to take more action.
Sen. Rubio: It's not just what we want to do. It's what they want to do. You want to do tourism? We tried that in 2015. Guess what? All the tourist sites are owned by a holding company named Gaia controlled by the Cuban military.
Cuban-Americans are also demanding Biden to do more.
Ramon Saul Sanchez: We need the help, Biden. Please help us, Biden. We need that help.
The Biden Administration says the U.S. is actively pursuing measures that will both support the Cuban people and hold the Cuban regime accountable.
President Joe Biden: Communism is a failed system. Cuba is, unfortunately, a failed state, and repressing their citizens.
But a major controversy was ignited in July when Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas announced Cubans, unlike most illegal crossers at America’s southern border, will be sent back home.
Sec. Alejandro Mayorkas: People will be returned. One cannot take to the sea and come to the United States.
Cuban refugees had been offered entry into the U.S. under a special policy, put into place by President Bill Clinton. Known as “Wet Foot/Dry Foot,” it granted Cubans political asylum if they made it as far as one physical, dry foot out of the ocean onto U.S. soil.
President Obama ended that in 2017, in an attempt to build a better and more open relationship with Cuba in trade and tourism.
But according to recent investigations, tourism in Cuba largely helped the communist regime.
President Trump brought back sanctions against Cuba, but not the Wet Foot/Dry Foot benefit.
According to Immigration and Customs Enforcement, in 2016, under Wet Foot/Dry Foot, the United States deported only 64 Cubans.
Last year, in 2020, 1,583 were deported. An increase of over 2,000%.
But with the removal of Wet Foot/Dry Foot, the rise in deportations, and new talks to lift the embargo against Cuba, the protesters in Miami say the U.S. is conceding to Cuba’s communist regime.
Cuban Protester in Miami: We're here to, to stand alongside them and tell them Cuba, you're not alone. Miami is here with you.
From Little Havana to the Miami beaches, Cubans have prospered from the American dream for several generations and helped their city, and new country, grow.
It is a sign that the Cuban culture lives freely here with hope that one day, those back home, will live freely too.
For Full Measure, I’m Scott Thuman in Miami, Florida.