South Florida residents share frustration as hundreds face prosecution for Cuba protests

'The right to express your way of thinking should be at the forefront of any society,' Jorge Alfonso says
Posted at 4:46 PM, Feb 02, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-02 17:32:57-05

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Hundreds of people in Cuba are facing serious prosecution after historic protests against the communist government last summer. Some of those people arrested included minors.

Cuban-Americans who live in Palm Beach County are sharing how they feel about the cases as tensions continue on the island nation.

"The time is crucial right now. There is a moment in time that we have to listen to the Cuban people," said Cuban playwright Vanessa Garcia.

Since the historic July 11 protests in Cuba, nearly 800 people were arrested and indicted for acts of vandalism and other serious disturbances, according to Cuba's attorney general's office.

Anti-government protests in Cuba, July 11, 2021
Anti-government protesters gather against ongoing food shortages and high prices of foodstuffsat the Maximo Gomez monument in Havana, Cuba, July 11, 2021. Six months after surprising protests against the Cuban government, more than 50 protesters who have been charged with sedition are headed to trial and could face sentences of up to 30 years in prison.

Garcia said continued exposure of what is happening is the only hope for these political prisoners.

"Up until now, it's only been people who have been related to or know people inside the island and in communication with that become imprisoned for peaceful protests or for simply wanting free speech or working freely as artists," Garcia said.

Right now, 710 political prisoners are facing trial. So far, 172 have been convicted.

"There are children included in these 700 people that we're speaking about," said Cuban-American theater director Victoria Collado. "They're all wrongfully imprisoned, but there's people that weren't even protesting that are being imprisoned."

Cuban-American playwright Vanessa Garcia and Cuban-American theater director Victoria Collado, Feb. 2, 2022
Vanessa Garcia (left) and Victoria Collado discuss the prosecution of people who protested the Cuban government last year.

Jorge Alfonso, the owner of Capri Bakery and Restaurant, located off Southern Boulevard in West Palm Beach, left Cuba when he was 12 years old.

Alfonzo said action should have been done on a global scale to defend human rights.

"The international community did not take the appropriate steps to help the Cuban people. This is horrific. The right to protest, the right to express your way of thinking should be at the forefront of any society," Alonso said.

Jorge Alfonso, the owner of Capri Bakery and Restaurant
Jorge Alfonso says countries should have stepped up to help the Cuban protesters last year.

The July protests weren't the only time there were people took to the streets.

Garcia said there have been thousands of peaceful protests for freedom from January through November of last year.

"If we do not unveil and tell the truth, there is no one that is telling that truth. No one is seeing those 3,053 other protests apart from the one that you saw on TV, publicly," Garcia said.