Cuba/Cuba Solidarity

May 29 Miami Car Caravan to End U.S. Blockade of Cuba Stands Up to Rightist Threats

By Pete Seidman

MIAMI, May 29, 2022 — The 23rd consecutive monthly caravan to oppose Washington’s economic war against Cuba took place today. What a victory for the fight to end the U.S. blockade of Cuba! What a victory for the right to free speech in this city!

About 130 people in 75 vehicles assembled along Ponce de Leon Boulevard in Coral Gables to start the event. As one woman who had missed the last few caravans put it, “This is one I had to be at!”

May 29 car caravan in Miami promoting the campaign to end U.S. blockade of Cuba. (Photo: Pete Seidman)
In a provocation, a car claiming to display flags of the Communist Party slipped into the May 29 anti-embargo car caravan in a failed attempt to portray it as a “communist plot.” Organizers confronted the driver who rolled up the windows and eventually pulled away. (Photo: Pete Seidman)

Supporters of the right to protest and speak out for ending the U.S. blockade came to show their support from all over: Vancouver, Canada; Minneapolis, Minnesota; New York City; Las Vegas, Nevada; Tampa and Jacksonville, Florida.

Prominent activists came to stand with us in defiance of threats by rightist YouTube personality Alex Otaola. They included Max Lesnik (Miami’s Alianza Martiana); Elena Freyre (PazAmor in Miami); Gloria LaRiva (ANSWER coalition); Medea Benjamin (Code Pink); as well as YouTube personalities El Titan de Cuba (Tennessee), Liber Barueta (Pellezcando en Vivo), and El Capitán Rodríguez.

Various political groups and individuals were also here to show support. They included the Democratic Socialists of America; FemPower; Green Party of Miami-Dade County; Party for Socialism and Liberation; Peoples Party of Florida; Socialist Workers Party; and Angel Montalvo, a candidate in the Democratic Party primary race to unseat rabid rightwing Congresswoman Maria Elvira Salazar in Florida’s 27th District.

People sent more than 60 letters to the mayors of the City of Miami and Miami-Dade County demanding that authorities ensure enforcement of the democratic rights to protest and to exercise free speech.

Otaola, whose YouTube site claims he has some 92,000 viewers, called for “hundreds of thousands” of Cubans to counter-protest against what he called a “communist provocation” aimed at dividing the Cuban community in Miami.

By the most generous count, however, no more than 100 rightists heeded Otaola’s call to protest against the anti-embargo caravan. They unfurled flashy banners and used expensive sound systems and fancy digital-sided trucks. Despite their paraphernalia, the counter-protesters looked and sounded weak and a little frantic as Coral Gable police officers forced them to remain across the four-lane street from the opponents of the U.S. blockade.

Puentes de Amor leader Carlos Lazo (center, with microphone) speaks during May 29 car caravan in Miami to end U.S. blockade of Cuba. (Photo: Pete Seidman)

Puentes de Amor leader Carlos Lazo had traveled from Seattle to join the Miami caravan, as he has done so many times before. Moments before we departed, Lazo called for a minute of silence in commemoration of those killed in Uvalde, Texas, and at the accidental explosion in Havana at the Saratoga Hotel. We followed the moment of silence with a dignified singing of the Cuban national anthem.

The dramatic contrast between our ceremony and the screeching of anti-communist slogans by the demoralized group across the street underscored the human solidarity and basic decency of the movement to end the U.S. draconian sanctions against Cuba.        

Just a week before, Otaola was only able to rally about 200 protesters at a venue in nearby Pembroke Pines, demanding that city authorities shut down a concert by the popular Cuban band Los Van Van. The 1,000 or so people entering the concert venue ignored the foul personal insults by the crude-and-outnumbered group. The ultra-rightists accused concertgoers of being communists and waved “Fuck Biden” and “Let’s Go Brandon” signs.

Alex Otaola and other right-wing Cubans failed to shut down a May 20 Pembroke Pines concert by the well-known Cuban music band Los Van Van. (Photo: Pete Seidman)
About 1,000 people enjoyed the May 20 Los Van Van concert. (Photo: Pete Seidman)

Another part of the fiasco for the rightists was their inability to intimidate a team of activists from distributing more than 200 flyers outside the concert to build the May 29 car caravan.

On May 16, the White House had announced a partial lifting of some of the 243 draconian sanctions against Cuba imposed under Joe Biden’s predecessor, Donald Trump, which further escalated Washington’s six-decade-old trade and financial embargo on Cuba. Biden’s feeble easing of these sanctions includes allowing U.S.-Cuba flights to land in Cuban cities beyond Havana, restarting a program to reunify Cuban families in the United States, and relaxing the ban on remittances Cubans send to their families in the Caribbean nation. U.S. Senator Bob Menendez of New Jersey, a Democrat who chairs the Foreign Relations Committee and is a Cuban American, denounced the administration’s action. Other conservative politicians did the same.

However, it seems that whatever the limitations of the Biden administration’s move, the announcement has had a demoralizing effect on rightists in Miami and beyond. Also demoralizing for them was being out-mobilized in the streets they claim to dominate here. Of course, this does not make these ultra-rightists less dangerous in their frustration.

The May 29 caravan traveled along Calle Ocho (Eighth St.), a principal street in Miami’s Little Havana district. As many times before, we received both positive and negative reactions. Despite Otaola’s claims that the caravan is a provocative attempt to divide Cubans, we see a community already polarized. What Otaola hates is that opponents of the U.S. blockade are successfully mobilizing and legitimizing those who reject Washington’s policies that cause so much pain for Cuban families on both sides of the Florida Straits.

Bystanders along Miami’s Calle Ocho gave thumps up to May 29 car caravan calling for an end to Washington’s economic war on Cuba. (Photo: Pete Seidman)

The caravan ended with a rally at the Free Speech Area of the Miami International Airport. It is located across the terminal where passengers to Cuba board and deplane. An endless stream of airport and private vehicles passed by the array of banners and signs we deployed on the sidewalk, many giving thumbs up and friendly horn honks.

Closing rally at the Miami international airport. (Photo: Pete Seidman)

The caravan also organized a dinner and social event the evening before. More than 70 people attended. They included many younger people, new to the movement. That event was very successful even though organizers had to change its venue two days earlier after rightwing Cubans intimidated the owner of a different restaurant into canceling the contract he had signed.

May 28 dinner and social event, the night before the car caravan, attracted more than 70 people, including youth new to the anti-blockade movement. (Photo: Pete Seidman)

Videos from May 29 Miami car caravan

A snippet of May 29 Miami car caravan to end U.S. blockade of Cuba. (Video courtesy of Pete Seidman)
Another snippet of May 29 Miami car caravan to end U.S. blockade of Cuba. (Video courtesy of Pete Seidman)
May 28 dinner and social event. (Video courtesy of Pete Seidman)

2 replies »

  1. THIS IS A TREMENDOUS VICTORY FOR CUBA AND THE INTERNATIONAL MOVEMENT TO END THE US BLOCKADE OF CUBA. It reflects the deepening divisions in the Cuban American community and that they cannot mobilize to shut down free speech in Miami as they have been able to do in the past. This victory will strengthen all of our caravans and public activities to end the blockade! GREAT JOB MIAMI AND CARLOS LAZO (Who is coming to LA July 16th to help us win new support amongst Cuban Americans here)

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