PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Cuban leaders held a rally this weekend in a show of solidarity in the wake of recent protests. President Miguel Diaz-Canel and former president Raul Castro were present. Cuba’s president called on the United States to lift its blockade on the island nation.
Last Sunday, thousands took to the streets in towns across Cuba to protest against power outages, a COVID-19 surge, widespread shortages of basic goods and the one-party system.READ MORE: New Jersey Native Carli Lloyd Makes USWNT Olympic History, Wins Bronze Medal At 2020 Tokyo Olympics
For Cuban Americans living in Philadelphia, watching these rare protests from afar has been an emotional experience. CBS3 sat down with Luis Fuentez, who called the protesters brave for exposing a regime that he feels has been holding his people hostage.
If Fuentez could be anywhere right now, it would be in the country he fled, to join the continuing anti-government protests.
“I want to tell them that fighting for freedom is not a felony,” Fuentez said.
At least not in the U.S., where he has made Philadelphia home for 25 years.
“When I came, I realized what freedom means for a person,” he said.READ MORE: 4 People Shot In Drive-By Shooting During Sidewalk Sale In Franklinville, Philadelphia Police Say
While the Cuban government has blamed the U.S. embargo for their current economic crisis, Fuentez believes that the pandemic empowered an already crushing regime to further strip citizens of their rights and ability to maintain food, water, medicine and electricity.
“The protesters in Cuba, they doing the right thing,” Fuentez said. “We are not waiting for the government to the United States to invade Cuba. We do not agree with that, we want to take care of our business.”
But Fuentez adds the Cuban people do need help.
Ongoing demonstrations in Miami and Washington, D.C. are calling on the United States to do more.
President Joe Biden has referred to Cuba as a failed state and said he’s exploring ideas on how to send aid and COVID-19 vaccines to the Cuban people without the risk of the Cuban government confiscating it.
“You go into the street in Philadelphia to protest against something, but you know the government of Philly is behind you, taking care of everybody,” Fuentez said, “and there you protest and your life is in danger.”MORE NEWS: Reports: Danny Green, Philadelphia 76ers Agree To 2 Year, $20M Deal
The protests have led to one advance as the Cuban government announced it will lift restrictions on travelers bringing food or medicine into the country.