West MI Cuban community rallies, shows solidarity with Caribbean nation

Kent County

WYOMING, Mich. (WOOD) — West Michigan’s Cuban community rallied for a second straight day in Wyoming to show support for people in the Caribbean nation.

Food and medicine are scarce as the country is facing an economic crisis. The dire situation is leading people in the country to protest the government.

“I think it’s about time because what Cuban people have been going through is pure hell,” said Rosa Romero, who was born in Cuba but left the island nation 57 years ago. “No food, no medicine. The treatment is unbelievable — you say anything bad about the government, you’re already in jail, maybe even dead,” Romero said.

The Cuban government is blaming the situation on an embargo with the U.S., however Mario Leon, a West Michigan resident who was born in Cuba, doesn’t think the embargo is the major reason for the situation in Cuba.

“They’ve used the embargo to make people believe the U.S. is the enemy and unfortunately, many in the U.S. buy into that,” said Leon, who moved to the U.S. in the early 1970s. His father was a political refugee.

“Do I think the embargo has hurt the Cuban people? Absolutely. You know what? Nothing is hurting that government. They’re eating well, they’re doing well, have medicine,” Leon said.

Leon visited family members in the Caribbean nation two years ago. He fears for their safety.

“The desperation of youth in Cuba is awful, and feelings of repression and hopelessness,” Leon said. “Right now, I’m worried for my cousins because they could be in that mess and I want no harm to come to them. And unfortunately, I can’t reach them because communication has been shut down by Cuban government.”

The way Cuba is governed is the reason why Romero has stayed away from her homeland.

“What is happening right now, gives me strength,” Romero said. “I always said I’d never go back to Cuba as long as the government is there. Seeing what is going on, I say maybe before I die I get a chance to see my little island in the Caribbean.”

U.S. President Joe Biden has called the protests in Cuba a call for freedom. He’s urging the Cuban government to stop the violence. Biden, however, has steered clear of requests to intervene.

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