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Florida Republicans slam President Joe Biden on Cuba during GOP town hall in Miami-Dade

Gov. DeSantis, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio and others appeared during the broadcast hosted by FOX News’ Sean Hannity.
Cuba protestors show their passion for change in their homeland as they march around downtown Orlando and Lake Eola in Orlando, Florida, Saturday, July 17, 2021.
Cuba protestors show their passion for change in their homeland as they march around downtown Orlando and Lake Eola in Orlando, Florida, Saturday, July 17, 2021. [ WILLIE J. ALLEN JR. | Orlando Sentinel ]
Published Jul. 22
Updated Jul. 22

A Miami crowd of dozens who had shown up in support of the anti-government protests in Cuba served as the backdrop of a GOP town hall broadcast live from Versailles Cafe on SW 8th Street — hosted by FOX News’ Sean Hannity.

The protest outside the iconic Little Havana venue, where attendees waved Cuban flags and “TRUMP WON” banners alike, was propped up behind the live show, which included appearances from Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio and U.S. Rep. Maria Elvira Salazar. Some of the attendees sported “DESANTIS 2024” T-shirts and “Make America Great Again” red hats.

During the hour-long event Wednesday, DeSantis criticized the Biden administration’s handling of the Cuban protests and said Biden needs to “step up and be on the side of freedom” by providing internet access to the island.

“If he’s willing to do that, they will make a positive difference,” DeSantis said. “As it stands now, he’s basically just sitting there doing nothing. He’s leaving these folks out to dry and what’s going to end up happening if they don’t get any type of assistance, the regime will continue to clamp down and they will eventually stamp this out and then that will mean even stronger power that will be a huge blow to the cause of freedom.”

DeSantis said the federal government needs to “tighten the screws on this regime,” and he attributed the protests to Trump’s policies.

Related: DeSantis urges Cuban military to overthrow government

Outside, the event became tense and chaotic at times, including when several members of the far-right Proud Boys who were in attendance were calling Salazar a “communist” and a supporter of Fidel Castro, while they shouted at Rubio, calling him a “RINO” — Republican in Name Only. Some of the attendees were visibly upset at the group of Proud Boys and asked them to focus on the message of the event. (“This is not the time or place,” one woman told them.)

At one point, Hannity, DeSantis and Rubio walked outside of the restaurant and took questions from a crowd of Cuban American protesters wielding pro-Trump Trump flags and “Patria & Vida” signs.

The televised interactions were not audible, but DeSantis could be heard telling the crowd about his push to give internet access to people on the island.

Related: DeSantis wants Florida companies to provide internet access in Cuba amid protests

Hannity also interviewed protesters, including a man and a woman who were wearing shackles with red paint splattered on their faces and bodies to symbolize what they said was the “blood of those who support the regime.”

“Cuba needs freedom! Enough is enough! The only vaccine the people in Cuba need is freedom. Please help!” the woman said.

Demonstration in Tropical Park

During an event earlier that day, hundreds of people were in Tropical Park on Wednesday evening, protesting in solidarity with ongoing anti-government demonstrations in Cuba in Tropical Park, amid massive arrests and summary trials behind closed doors against protesters on the island. But some in South Florida said they worried the cause could lose momentum.

The Miami demonstration, organized by the Assembly for Cuban Resistance, drew supporters of the movement that began with protests in Cuba on July 11 from throughout South Florida, driving from cities as far north as Port St. Lucie. Waving Cuban flags and shouting “Down with the dictatorship,” the protesters demanded immediate action from the international community to intervene, as widespread repression against demonstrators in Cuba appeared to continue.

“It’s logical that after such brutal repression people cannot continue to be on the streets and they will have to organize in some other way,” said Andres Espinosa, one of the demonstrators at Wednesday’s rally. “And we also have to find a way to support them, so that when they decide to go back to the streets, they can have some support.”

Among the speakers at Wednesday’s demonstration at the Ronald Reagan Equestrian Center was Kiele Alessandra Cabrera, a 23-year-old Cuban American who made headlines last month when she ran into the field of a pre-Olympic baseball tournament in Palm Beach between Cuba and Venezuela.

“Cuban Americans today have a responsibility, as young people born here in Miami, to learn the realities and truths of our parents. I know because my mother and my grandmother have always fought my whole life,” said Cabrera from a stage. “When I was 5 years old, I went to the Elian [Gonzalez] protests ... We have to know the truth of what is happening in Cuba.”

Related: On Tampa City Council, a debate over Cuba support stil simmers

The demonstration lasted about an hour and a half before the crowd dispersed.

Meanwhile in Cuba, mothers had organized a demonstration on Wednesday under the Movimiento Madres del 11-7, or Mothers’ Movement of July 11, to demand the release of their children who have been detained or disappeared by special forces on the island. internet access continued to be limited, as the Cuban government continued to downplay the demonstrations and portray anti-regime protesters as violent and unpatriotic.