President Joe Biden will host Cuban American leaders at the White House on Friday to discuss the recent historic protests in the Caribbean nation and his administration’s response, including new sanctions on Cuban leaders and establishing internet access for Cubans.
Those in attendance will include political and community leaders as well as artists.
Thousands of Cubans throughout the island took to the streets July 11 and showed a level of dissent not seen since the 1959 revolution. The protests were sparked by the island’s severe economic crisis, including shortages in food and medicine, as well as rolling blackouts, but also included calls for “libertad” or “freedom.” Many chanted “we want change” and “down with the dictatorship.”
The protests ended with security forces and civilians with sticks beating protesters and arrests.
Cuba’s government has largely blamed the United States and the decadeslong economic embargo for the protests and said demonstrators were also incited on social media.
Over 700 people are being held by the government, according to human rights organizations. There have been reports of some people being held incommunicado and others receiving summary trials, which Cuba has denied.
In the U.S., Cuban Americans have held protests and rallies in support of those on the island and called on Biden to take more action against Havana.
The Treasury Department announced sanctions last week against Cuba’s defense minister and an elite brigade of government security forces that took part in the crackdown on protesters.
The White House has held several meetings with Cuban American leaders and members of Congress since the protests swept through the island.
Yotuel Romero, one of the performers of the song “Patria y Vida,” or “Homeland and life,” a phrase that was shouted repeatedly during the protests, will be at the meeting. “Patria y Vida” has become a sort of anthem in protests and is a play on the revolutionary slogan “Homeland or Death.”
Former Miami Mayor Manny Díaz, eMerge Americas CEO and Roots of Hope founder L. Felice Gorordo and Miami Freedom Project co-founder Ana Sofía Peláez are also expected to be in attendance.