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St. Petersburg City Council shows support for Cuba protests

Council members voted 7-0 to support protests against the Cuban government that have erupted across the island nation and Florida.
A crowd chants at a protest in solidarity with Cuba outside of Kathy Castor's office on Monday, July 12, 2021 in Tampa.
A crowd chants at a protest in solidarity with Cuba outside of Kathy Castor's office on Monday, July 12, 2021 in Tampa. [ ARIELLE BADER | Times ]
Published Jul. 22
Updated Jul. 23

ST. PETERSBURG — The City Council passed a resolution declaring support for protests against the Cuban government that have erupted across the island nation and Florida.

Cubans took to the streets in early July to demand food and COVID-19 vaccines, calling for the end of the island nation’s decades-old dictatorship. Many Floridians followed, holding protests in cities across the state to rally behind the overseas demonstrators.

The resolution, brought forward by council Chair Ed Montanari, passed unanimously, with council member Deborah Figgs-Sanders absent.

“I wanted to send a message from the city of St. Petersburg that the protesters in Cuba are being heard. We’ve heard their cries for freedom and democracy,” Montanari said.

Related: Cuba protests demanding change spread to Tampa

Montanari said his grandmother, who lived in Cuba before the country’s revolution in the 1950s, knew Fidel and Raúl Castro as a child. His grandfather is buried in Cuba, and his mother was born there, he said.

“I’m glad that we can support the Cuban people’s right to the same freedoms that we have and we enjoy here in this country,” he said.

Tempers flared at Tampa’s City Council last week when council member Luis Viera brought forward a similar resolution supporting protests. The resolution, which dissenting council member Bill Carlson called a “publicity stunt,” passed 5-2. A one-sentence resolution later brought forward by Carlson expressing general support for the Cuban people’s economic and political freedom passed unanimously.

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

There was no dissent among council members over St. Petersburg’s resolution.

“The Cuban people deserve openness, they deserve information, they deserve dignity, they deserve quality of life and they just deserve freedom,” council member Robert Blackmon said.

Lisset Hanewicz, a candidate for City Council District 4, asked the council to approve the resolution. The Cuban government killed her grandfather before her grandmother fled to Tampa prior to her birth, she said.

“What did they gain here? Freedom,” she said.