A group of Cuban American boaters took to the waters Friday from South Florida in an effort to show support to their homeland.
The flotilla left from the Bayside marina Friday morning, planning a stop in Key West to refuel and have their vessels checked for safety regulations by the United States Coast Guard before arriving at a proposed point in international waters outside of Havana.
“The plan is to shoot a lot of flares up in the air. Shoot some fireworks up in the air and let them know that we’re there to support them,” said Osdany Veloz, one of the organizers of the flotilla.
The flotilla is expected to arrive back in Key West after sunset. Various plans had been in place to deliver supplies in recent weeks but were all delayed due to weather.
Thursday, The Biden administration announced new sanctions against a Cuban official and a government entity that it says was involved in human rights abuses during a government crackdown on protests on the island earlier this month.
The Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control listed Alvaro Lopez Miera, a Cuban military and political leader, and the Brigada Especial Nacional del Ministerio del Interior, or Interior Ministry Special Brigade, as among those who will face the latest sanctions.
Treasury said in a statement that Lopez Miera “has played an integral role in the repression of ongoing protests in Cuba." Cuba’s Ministry of the Revolutionary Armed Forces, which is led by Lopez Miera, and other Cuban government’s security services have attacked protesters and arrested or disappeared over 100 protesters in an attempt to suppress these protests, according to Treasury.
The regime led by Miguel Diaz-Canel moved quickly, and violently, to stem the protests. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the actions by Cuban authorities, and violent mobs it mobilized, “lay bare the regime’s fear of its own people and unwillingness to meet their basic needs and aspirations.”
The Interior Ministry Special Brigade was already sanctioned in January by the Trump administration, which targeted the entire ministry and Interior Minister Lazaro Alberto Alvarez Casas under the Global Magnitsky Act.
Biden has also called for the State Department to launch a working group to review U.S. remittance policy to ensure that money that Cuban Americans send home makes it directly into the hands of their families without the regime taking a cut.
Biden also ordered a review of the viability of increasing staff at the U.S. Embassy in Havana. The White House is hopeful that a boost in staffing could help it better facilitate civil society engagement following one of Cuba's biggest anti-government demonstrations in recent memory.
Earlier Thursday, the Miami City Commission passed a resolution unanimously urging Biden to take action on Cuba and assist the Cuban people.
The city commission also asked the president to provide medical equipment and treatment to combat COVID-19.
At the Miami Commission meeting, during the public comment section, Cuban-Americans also called on the President to help the Cuban people.
"This commission now has a historic opportunity to help the Cuban people rid themselves of the oppressive government by adopting resolution 9366 and urging President Biden to take any and all actions necessary to assist the Cuban people in their call for freedom," said Giselle Gutierrez, with the Cuban American Bar Association.
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