As Floridians continue to crowd streets in Miami and elsewhere, the Cuba-born pastor of a Spring Hill church is hoping pressure here will help bring long-awaited changes.
“It's not that the protests here will make a difference in Cuba,” said Pastor Roberto Michel of the Life Church on County Line Road in Spring Hill, “It's that the protests here will influence policy-makers in the US to do what they can to bring regime change in Cuba.”
On July 11, demonstrators in Cuba took to the streets in Havana and elsewhere on the island to protest economic hardships including shortages of food and medicine there. According to Michel, shortages of medicine during the island's latest COVID surge was the breaking point for protesters there.
“COVID was really the last straw,” Michel said. “People had had enough.”
In response to COVID-19-related shortages, Michel's congregation had begun to gather donations of medical supplies such as fever reducer, cough medicine and sore throat medicines, but the effort stalled when protests on the island began.
“Every year we send folks from our church in Canada and Mexico there, but everything is shut down there now,” Michel said. “And we surely don't want to send anything to the government – the people will never get it.”
Amid the protests, the Cuban government shut down internet and cell phone service through the island. In response, policy-makers on the US side including Gov. Ron DeSantis and US Sen. Marco Rubio urged the Biden administration to pressure the government there to get Cubans back online.
Last week, Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel restored intermittent internet and cell phone service on the island. Now some Cuban-Americans including Michel hope the US and other Western Nations will keep the pressure on Cuba's current regime.
“The government can do whatever it wants, and now they're telling people what they want to hear,” said Michel. “I hope the US, the United Nations and the European Union will do what they can in a meaningful way to help the people in Cuba.”
For now, the Life Church has suspended its drive to accumulate supplies to help the people in Cuba cope with COVID-19 and other shortages. That effort is likely to resume later, Michel said.