Cuban exiles rally for change in Little Havana

MIAMI (WSVN) - Cuban-Americans are planning a major gathering to demand liberty and democracy for Cuba, in Little Havana Wednesday.

Cuban exile Luis Sanchez started a Cuban cigar business 22 years ago in Little Havana, and Wednesday may be one the best days for business yet. “It’s just great; it’s just wonderful to be in the middle of it,” he said.

That gathering is set to take place just days after the death of Fidel Castro. “We are celebrating that the pillar, the foundation, is no longer here,” he said.

There have been spontaneous celebrations in the streets, but the rally for liberty and democracy in Cuba is being carefully planned by leaders in the Cuban exile community.

“It is a time to come together, united as one, in solidarity with freedom, with justice and democracy for Cuba,” said Sylvia Iriondo with Mothers and Women Against Repression in Cuba.

“Showing the world that this is a jubilation,” said Bay of Pigs Veterans Association President Humberto Diaz Arguelles, “that maybe a new beginning of a new way to find freedom for Cuba.”

“We’re asking the rest of the community to support us now, to back us now as we demand freedom and democracy for Cuba,” said Orlando Gutierrez-Boronat, with the Cuban Democratic Directorate.

Several blocks will be shut down to accommodate the gathering along Southwest Eighth Street, between 12th and 17th Avenue, by noon. “We’re expecting thousands of people,” said Miami Police Lt. Freddie Cruz. “We’re gonna have plenty of uniformed officers and undercover officers, and that is for your safety.”

City and government officials are also expecting the event to be a peaceful celebration. “We here in our exile community are saying thank goodness we have a great country, the United States of America, that allows us to express our opinion, and they will be there in droves,” said Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.

The rally will take place right outside Sanchez’s cigar shop. “It means a lot,” he said, “to still have that hope.”

Parking is expected to be a problem, so police said those attending should arrive with ample amount of time.

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