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Jacksonville city councilmember files resolution, calls for support of Cuban protestors

Al Ferraro went to one of the demonstrations downtown and has met with local Cuban Americans to learn more about what's happening on the island.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Demanding freedom – demonstrators have filled the streets in Cuba and on the First Coast. Now, Jacksonville leaders are looking to take the lead and officially back those protesting the communist government.

Councilmember Al Ferraro filed a resolution asking for Jacksonville City Council to express solidarity with Cuban protestors. He believes it’s simply a matter of supporting people's freedom and is requesting emergency passage.

Demonstrations started in Cuba nearly two weeks ago, and quickly gained support in the United States.

“What people want is not a specific type of help or handout that can temporarily relieve the pain," Local Cuban American pastor Juan Carlos Del Valle explained. "What they want is the freedom to be able to be who they are, to have businesses, to trade, to travel."

Del Valle grew up in Cuba, and has taken the lead of some education efforts in Jacksonville.

He says the problems those on the island face are much more than a food shortage and lack of medical supplies amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Cuban people have lacked so many basic human rights in the communist country for 62 years, Del Valle says, and that’s why the focus of the demonstrations have been on freedom.

“It's worse than you can imagine, our absolute worst day here doesn't even compare to the best days they have there," Ferraro said.

The district two city council member went to one of the demonstrations downtown and has met with local Cuban Americans like Del Valle who have heard about many missing Cuban people as rallies on the island have turned violent.

What he learned, Ferraro says, encouraged him to write up the resolution calling for the city to show official support of Cuban people’s freedom.

“We have an opportunity, as elected officials and as a city, to back our friends or neighbors for what they're trying to do. And that's to promote and grab freedom," he explained. “Who doesn't want to get on the side of freedom? This is an absolute no-brainer. No matter what party, no matter what economic group, no matter what your age. Freedom.”

Del Valle says Ferraro's resolution is an important first step.

“You make the public aware, you're one step closer to helping these people," he said. "Because I think part of the problem is that the American public has not been really informed of what the current situation is there. So, without proper information, there's no appropriate action you can take."

Ferraro hopes other major cities follow Jacksonville, and local support leads to action by the federal government.

“It's also like a domino effect," Ferraro said. "If we're able to help the Cuban people with their freedom, this is also going to set free a lot of people in Venezuela and in our Western Hemisphere.”

Ferraro's request for the emergency passage of this resolution means, instead of being introduced and going through committees for debate, he is asking for an immediate vote by the city council.

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