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Group rallies in Arizona hoping for change amid unrest in Cuba

cubans in arizona
Posted at 5:36 AM, Jul 22, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-22 08:38:55-04

PHOENIX — Chants of "Libertad!" or "Freedom!" echoed through the streets of Downtown Phoenix.

Dozens of SOS Cuba demonstrators carried signs, flags, and hope in their hearts that Cuba may actually be on the brink of change after more than 60 years of Communist rule.

Liset Sanchez says she thinks a moment of change has finally arrived on the island nation.

Eleven years ago, Sanchez made the difficult decision to leave Cuba, her family, her livelihood, and everything she knew to move to Arizona.

"The government says that everything is fine," she explains. "There is so much misinformation."

On July 11, protests erupted across Cuba, the largest anti-government demonstrations in a generation, fueled by anger over long food lines, rising prices, and decades of oppression.

Cuba's government blamed the demonstrations on the United States and social media, encouraging government supporters to hit the streets to counter-protest.

Those on the island are also angry over Cuba's response to the COVID-19 pandemic, but this isn't the first time the country's healthcare system has come under scrutiny.

Cuba's government says it's one of the best healthcare systems in the world, but Sanchez disagrees, telling ABC15 that her family on the island "has nothing."

Last week, she marched alongside dozens of other Cuban-Americans through Downtown Phoenix. Sanchez explains communication to the island has basically been cut off since the protests began on July 11.

"They were in communication with us for a few days," Sanchez explains. "But when people started to go out into the streets to reclaim their rights, the government cut off the internet. They cut off the electricity so that nobody could communicate. The communication has been very scarce."

Critics argue this is a common move by the Cuban government so that people won't see what's really happening on the island.

Sanchez says right now, she is hoping for a miracle that other Cubans just like her will one day know what true freedom is.

"When I got here, they told me with a smile on their face, 'welcome to America.' They helped me so much and they helped my children. I have so much to thank this country for. This country is my homeland now."

There is growing pressure on the Biden Administration to take action.

This week, the White House said it would re-examine its policies with Cuba and is aiming to strike a balance between supporting the Cuban people and also holding the Cuban government accountable.