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Cubans in Miami commemorate Cuba’s largest protests one year on

It has been one year since the biggest protests in Cuba for decades – an event commemorated by Cubans living in Miami on Monday with a show of support for those who stood up against the Havana government.

A monument to Brigade 2506, which honours a US-led campaign to overthrow Fidel Castro in 1960 became the rally point for Cubans, who came to protest and make their case for freedom for the Caribbean island.

“This did not start a year, or two, or 10 or 20 years ago. We are in a park commemorating Brigade 2506. This began with the first Cuban who faced totalitarianism in 1959. Cubans who took the streets a year ago are following and standing on giants, giants who were killed by firing squads in the 60s,” said Rosa Maria Paya, founder of Cuba Decide Initiative.

On July 11 last year, Cubans poured onto the streets of the island demanding social and economic reform in one of the largest demonstrations since Fidel Castro took power in 1959. The regime cracked down on the protests and followed with arrests and imprisonment. Human rights groups did not refrain from calling the Cuban government’s action “abusive.”

A total of 381 people were sanctioned by Cuban authorities, including 16 young people between the ages of 16 and 18, who took part in last summer’s protests.

Of these, as many as 297 have been sentenced to between 5 and 25 years behind bars for crimes of sedition, sabotage, robbery with force, and public disorder, according to the attorney general’s office.

“Freedom is what I want for my people, for my son, for my mother, for my family, for everyone that I love in Cuba. What I have here is what I want for them over there. For the country to be free once and for all, get rid of all those tyrants that have been downgrading our families’ lives for over 60 years. When will it end? When will it end? We want them gone, we want them to disappear now,” said Marcel Rodriguez, a Cuban living in Miami.

The US State Department announced, on Saturday, visa restrictions against 28 Cuban officials that it said were implicated in the crackdown. The department said in the statement that the restrictions would apply to high-ranking members of the Cuban Communist Party and officials employed in the country’s state communications and media sectors.

The number of Cubans who have left for the US since October amounts to 140,000 people, US government figures show. This has been the largest exodus from Cuba in decades.

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