Many are calling for President Biden to do more in support of Cuban protesters, especially after a 72-hour blackout of the Internet ordered by authorities to tamp down dissent. Photo by Yerson Olivares on Unsplash

As President Joe Biden announced targeted sanctions on Cuban officials for human rights abuses committed in the crackdown on the communist-run island’s largest street protests in decades, the Georgia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce issued a statement in support of what its leaders called Cubans’ “quest for freedom.”  

We at the Georgia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce stand firmly in solidarity with the Cuban community during this difficult and pivotal time in Cuban history. We are inspired by the brave voices expressing their quest for freedom and a new way of life. As immigrants and descendants of immigrants, we understand the yearning and join our voices with Cubans everywhere to proclaim Patria y Vida!

Organized on social media platforms more readily available as mobile Internet access grows, the protests saw thousands pour into the streets in frustration over a fast-spreading COVID-19 outbreak and a worsening economic crisis. The movement came just months after leader Raul Castro stepped down in line with a succession plan announced three years ago, ending his family’s half-century hold on power that had endured since his brother Fidel took the helm in 1959. The Communist Party remains firmly in control, but the Cuban leadership is under increasing pressure to deliver economic reforms. 

While Atlanta is not known for the size of its Cuban diaspora, it is home to many businesspeople whose families fled the country during the revolution and have grown up cherishing the freedoms enjoyed here as their native country languished under political repression and economic embargo.  

“As a Cuban American who family came to the United State in search of liberty and justice, I stand behind the liberation of the Cuban people for a free Democratic Society,” said Rene Diaz, CEO of Diaz Foods, in the GHCC statement.  

Ruben J. Cruz, an attorney who runs the Cruz & Associates law firm, added:  

“There is nothing I wish for more than to see my fellow countrymen enjoying the liberty and freedom that I have been privileged to in this country. My family and I stand with each and every Cuban that dares to dream of a Cuba Libre.” 

As widely condemned mass trials quickly convicted many protesters, as well as those who simply filmed the events and shared them online, Cuban-Americans continued to plead with Mr. Biden to take a firmer action on the regime. 

The administration may find its leverage limited, given how unpopular the U.S. embargo on Cuba remains globally, but the Cuban diaspora remains a potent political force, especially in South Florida, and many there approved of the harder line taken by former President Donald Trump as a reaction to the diplomatic detente envisioned by his predecessor, Barack Obama.  

The Georgia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce was founded in 1984 with the late Sara J. Gonzalez at the helm. Ms. Gonzalez, the first Latina memorialized in a City of Atlanta park, fled Cuba in 1960 and moved to Atlanta in 1975.  

Her daughter, Isabel Gonzalez Whitaker, who led the charge to build the Buckhead park after Ms. Gonzalez’s passing in 2008, said the freedom enjoyed in the U.S. should not be taken for granted. 

“We must unapologetically and unequivocally stand with the people of Cuba who have bravely, under the most dangerous and frightening circumstances, declared their dreams for a better, freer future for themselves and the next generation. The Patria y Vida we know here by the mere privilege of living in a democracy is the same Patria y Vida the people of Cuba deserve as well. “ 

As it has for years, the state of Georgia in 2020 exported more than $19 million of food products to Cuba under a carveout in the embargo for agricultural goods.  

Learn more about the GHCC here 

As managing editor of Global Atlanta, Trevor has spent 15+ years reporting on Atlanta’s ties with the world. An avid traveler, he has undertaken trips to 30+ countries to uncover stories on the perils...