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South Florida Cuban community rallies in solidarity ahead of island protests

'Civic March for Change' protests planned in Cuba
Cuba Rally for Freedom in West Palm Beach
Posted at 10:34 PM, Nov 14, 2021

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — The clamor for freedom and democracy for Cuba continues among exiles and many South Florida Cubans. Many of them gathered at the intersection of Forest Hill Boulevard and Military Trail to show support and solidarity ahead of Monday's protests on the island nation.

Ronny Paz was out on the streets Sunday in West Palm Beach, raising his voice for freedom for Cuba.

"To offer support to them (Cubans), tell them that we are with them and they are not alone," he said. "They can protest and we will help them."

But for people back in Cuba, like his brother Raynol Paz, doing so is risky. Even FaceTiming with WPTV is a risk.

"Today I could be talking to you. Tomorrow, I may not know," Raynol Paz said. "I could be in a military unit or at a police station."

Raynol Paz used to be a radio sports journalist and was pushed out by the communist regime for an international story he covered. He said things have not gotten better since the historic July protests. He said more than 1,000 people were detained following those rallies and hundreds remain in jail. Raynol Paz said police now dress as civilians as a way to violently target protesters and those calling for freedom on the island.

Another major protest called the "Civic March for Change" will take place Monday. It is led by civil society groups who have called for peaceful protests across Cuba to demand respect for human rights and the release of hundreds of people still imprisoned following the largest public protests seen in decades held this past July 11.

"There are people who have the desire to go on to the streets and protest. But, at the same time, there's fear for the things that could happen," Raynol Paz said.

"We want the right for elections, to say, 'I want this guy or I want the other guy. That's a good guy. OK, four more years. If that's a bad guy, just get out and bring me another one,'" Luis Piaa said. "That's it. That's simple."

Jacqueline Zitelli showed up to Sunday's rally and says the march is a huge step Cubans are taking.

"Hopefully they take that huge step," Zitelli said. "I know they are afraid. Everybody's afraid, because everyone knows what they can do — the whole world — but this is different now. The whole world is watching."