President Joe Biden will meet with Cuban American activists at the White House on Friday to discuss the recent wave of protests throughout the island nation, an administration official told McClatchy on Thursday.
The meeting comes after thousands of Cuban Americans rallied in front of the White House to draw attention to the islandwide uprising that shook the country on July 11 and the violent crackdown on protesters that followed. Human Rights Watch and other organizations estimate that more than 500 people have been arrested.
The meeting will focus on “the historic demonstrations in Cuba and the Administration’s response, including applying new sanctions on Cuban leaders and establishing internet access for the Cuban people,” the administration official said.
Among the activists invited are L. Felice Gorordo, CEO of eMerge Americas and co-founder of Roots of Hope; Yotuel Romero, lead singer of Orishas, a Cuban hip-hop group, who was the main author of Patria y Vida, a song that has become an anthem for the protesters; Ana Sofia Pelaez, co-founder of the Miami Freedom Project; and Manny Diaz, former Miami mayor and chair of the Florida Democratic Party.
“I am very much looking forward to seeing the president tomorrow and having a chance to speak with him about ways that he can continue to support the Cuban people in their struggle for freedom, and continue to hold the Cuban regime accountable,” said Gorordo.
Pelaez said she was “looking forward to the conversation.” Díaz said he was “honored” by the invitation.
Last week, Biden condemned “unequivocally … the mass detentions and sham trials” following the protests and imposed sanctions on the head of the Cuban armed forces and a special elite unit that has been deployed to suppress the demonstrations. He also said he ordered his administration to work with civil society organizations and the private sector to find ways to circumvent the regime’s internet censorship efforts.
White House officials have been meeting with leaders in the Cuban American community in the past few weeks to seek ideas on how to support the Cuban people. On Tuesday, National Security Council Senior Director for the Western Hemisphere Juan Gonzalez met with Rosa Maria Paya, the Cuban activist leading a referendum initiative named Cuba Decide.
Paya told the Miami Herald she asked the administration to put pressure on European countries and the international community to do more on Cuba and continue sanctioning government officials involved in the ongoing repression against the demonstrators.
A week after the July 11 protests, Gonzalez also held a “listening session” with several prominent Cuban Americans, including musicians Gloria and Emilio Estefan and actor Andy Garcia. Díaz, Gorordo and Pelaez also attended the Zoom meeting.