Cuban-Americans living in San Diego are closely watching the unfolding protests in their homeland and hoping they bring change.
“We don’t have any kind of freedom over there,” said Javier Alfonso Cota, who left Cuba in search of a better life when he was 19. “That was the main reason I came here, was for freedom.”
But Coto misses Cuba. He was born there and still has friends and relatives living in the country whose government he called repressive.
“They don’t have good health care right now," said Coto, who blames the government. "The economy is really bad. They don’t have money to buy things in the stores, and the stores are like, empty, too."
Coto said he was happy to see so many Cubans protesting in the streets this weekend, saying they’re fed up with the status quo.
“I’m just asking for the government: 'Please don’t kill people, don’t fight with the people,' " Coto said. "People just want rights."
Coto shared videos from social media that he said show police and military troops in Cuba beating up civilian protesters.
On Monday, President Joe Biden called on the government of Cuba to refrain from violence and said, “We stand with the Cuban people and their clarion call for freedom and relief from the tragic grip of the pandemic and from the decades of repression and economic suffering to which they have been subjected by Cuba's authoritarian regime.”
Coto said he believes the protests will make a difference and hopes that someday he can return to Cuba.
”I miss my family a lot," Coto said. "I miss the food. I miss my friends. I miss my neighborhood, my home. I miss everything. “