TAMPA, Fla. — Less than a week after President Joe Biden announced new sanctions against Cuba, the Cuban community in the Tampa Bay area is continuing to mobilize with a letter-writing campaign to the White House.
On July 11, thousands of Cubans took to the streets to protest the lack of food and medicine as the COVID-19 pandemic rages on.
With signs reading "We stand with the people of Cuba," Maria Castillo, her father, mother, husband and two daughters are standing and demonstrating at the corner of Dale Mabry and Columbus Drive in Tampa nearly every night. And they are not alone.
They are being joined by dozens in Tampa's Cuban Community in a show of solidarity.
"For us, we know this has been happening for 62 years," Castillo said. "But this is one of the first times the numbers are so big they are actually in the streets, begging for the United States to intervene."
As a proud Cuban-American, Castillo has seen firsthand the devastation and heartache the Cuban regime has caused her own family and countless others.
"They are screaming freedom," Castillo said. "They are screaming that this is a dictatorship that is killing them."
Now, Castillo is helping lead a letter-writing campaign to the White House. It states that since the outset of the pandemic, conditions have worsened in Cuba, leading to "widespread starvation, suffering and death."
Additionally, it asks the United States to remove the current regime and install a democratic system.
"The first 250 letters were sent to the White House," Castillo said. "We did scanned copies so we could continue to send them to elected officials."
One thing demonstrators say they really want elected officials to be aware of is the violence that's still happening there.
President Joe Biden held a roundtable discussion on Friday after announcing additional sanctions from the U.S. Treasury.
"We hear your voices and we hear the cries of freedom coming from the island," he said in a message to the Cuban people.
The new measures are targeting Cuba's National Revolutionary Police, who are said to be carrying out violence against protesters.
"We're going to continue to add sanctions on individuals to carry out through regimes abuses," Biden said. "At the same time, we're increasing direct support for the Cuban people. by pursuing every option available to provide Internet access."
In the meantime, some Tampa Bay activists have gone to Miami to meet with their mayor and other elected officials. Others have traveled to Washington D.C.
Castillo has already sent more than 500 signed letters to Washington D.C. and plans to send hundreds more before the end of the week.