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Tampa's Cuban community rallies after 1 year since freedom protests

The community said food shortages and power outages persist despite louder calls for change.

TAMPA, Fla. — Monday marks the anniversary of thousands of people that filled the streets in Tampa protesting dire shortages of food, medicine and COVID-19 vaccines in Cuba.

People demanded freedom and called upon leaders in the Cuban government to resign. The protests are considered one of the country's largest anti-governmental demonstrations in decades.

Tampa's Cuban community kept the protests alive on Sunday, with dozens of people waving their flags along North Dale Mabry and West Columbus Drive.

"We want progress for our people. That's what we are remembering here," Eduardo Darna Lou said, a person who attended the protest.

The Associated Press reports that people in Cuba who participated in protests are still imprisoned in the country.

Hundreds of people from the Cuban community in the Tampa Bay region marched in solidarity throughout the year.

Despite the efforts, the protestors said not much has changed. Their family members still face frequent power outages, while others struggle amid scarce food supplies every day.

“There's so many things, the list is enormous," said Osmel Benitez of La Casa Cuba de Tampa. "It's not a government. It's a dictatorship.” 

Benitez said the problems aren't anything new. It's gone on for decades, hence why he believes the government must be overthrown.

People from Cuba said their families in the U.S. are their only lifeline.

“We are basically the ones that are keeping them alive by sending them some money," Benitez said. "[We also sent] medications when they get sick."

Protestors said it'll take time and something drastic to change from within to end 63 years and counting of communist leadership.

For now, the local Cuban community wants to show people back in the country they're not alone. 

"The only way we can have that necessary change in Cuba is by taking the street, taking action," said Darna Lou, another protestor at the event.

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