‘Stand Firm Against That Regime,’ Florida Lawmaker Says of Cuba Amid Revolt There

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Rep. Byron Donalds has signed onto a resolution from a fellow Florida Republican, Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, condemning the current situation in Cuba.

Donalds says it’s critical that the United States stand in strong opposition to the violent suppression of mass public protests there.

“They said to me, ‘Man, it’s so bad.’ Not only did they shut down the internet, but they were like, ‘There was a 12-year-old kid who was in the crowd at the protests. The police, the military police threw him on the ground, hit him with the butt of their gun in the back of his neck, broke his neck. He’s now paralyzed from the neck down,'” Donalds says.

“They talked about how people are being told, when the [Cuban] military comes to their door, ‘You either come with us, or we’ll kill you right now.’ These are the things that are occurring in Cuba right now, today,” the freshman Florida lawmaker says. “And so, we as a country, as being the beacon for liberty and freedom on the globe, we have, in my view, a moral obligation to stand firm against that regime.”

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  • Paul Hodgkins, of Tampa, Florida, gets an eight-month sentence for his role in the Jan. 6 breach of the Capitol.

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Rachel del Guidice: I’m joined today on “The Daily Signal Podcast” by Congressman Byron Donalds of Florida. Congressman Donalds, it’s great to have you back on “The Daily Signal Podcast.”

Rep. Byron Donalds: Anytime. Glad to be back. Glad to be here.

Del Guidice: It’s great to have you with us. I wanted to start off talking about legislation that you joined down in Tucson with Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart condemning what’s happening right now in Cuba. Can you tell us about that industry perspective and what’s happening there right now?

Donalds: The entire voice, and frankly, the entire United States government is assembled from one voice, so we’ll see what happens with this resolution. But we must stand against the totalitarianism that has happened. Not just now in Cuba, what’s been happening in Cuba for 62 years.

The Cuban revolution led by Fidel Castro is one of the most murderous regimes on the face of the planet. Unfortunately, this is what happens when nations fall into the hands of Marxism, communism, socialism, because in order for the “government to thrive,” they have to take everything from the people.

They have to take away thought. They have to take away mobility. They take away innovation. All that’s happened on the island of Cuba. And so, the least we could do is sign onto a resolution completely condemning, not just what’s happened, but the regime as a whole.

Del Guidice: As a lawmaker who is in Florida, you have constituents here that probably work with people who have fled Cuba. You may have talked to some of those people. Are there any personal stories you can share with us about people who have fled Cuba—what they’ve told you, what they’ve told people who work with you about the situation there, why they came here?

Donalds: One of good friends, Max Alvarez, he actually lives in Miami. Max spoke at the convention last year at the [Republican National Committee] and Max tells a story vividly all the time about how everybody had to leave their possessions. He had to leave everything. In order to leave the country, you had to leave your possessions.

Now think about that for a moment. If that even happened anywhere in the world today, we’d be like, “What’s going on in this country?” That’s what they had to do.

I was actually at the barbershop a week ago and when I left, a couple of the guys were sitting outside and then they called me over and they were like, “Hey man, we saw you on TV. Can you tell us what’s going on? What’s the government doing?”

And I said, “Honestly, I don’t think the government’s going to do anything because, unfortunately, Joe Biden’s the commander in chief. And so, he has to be the one to lead the charge about doing something constructive about Cuba.”

They said to me, “Man, it’s so bad.” Not only did they shut down the internet, but they were like, “There was a 12-year-old kid who was in the crowd at the protests. The police, the military police threw him on the ground, hit him with the butt of their gun in the back of his neck, broke his neck. He’s now paralyzed from the neck down.”

They talked about how people are being told when the military comes to their door, “You either come with us or we’ll kill you right now.”

These are the things that are occurring in Cuba right now, today. And so, we as a country, as being the beacon for liberty and freedom on the globe, we have, in my view, a moral obligation to stand firm against that regime.

Del Guidice: On that note, what do you think should be done to combat what’s happening in Cuba? What should the United States do? What would you encourage the Biden administration to do?

Donalds: At a minimum, we need to keep the sanctions in place and actually improve on them. Make them stiffer, make them harder.

The No. 2 thing we should do is we should make sure that the Cuban people are never shut out by their government from things like the internet. We can do that. We have the technology to do that, to basically place a net on that island.

No. 3, we need to make sure that we are being in full support of every dissident movement that’s happening on the island.

The reality is that the people have nothing. So how are you going to stand up against your government, voice your opinion against your government, if you have nothing?

And so, they have nothing. They don’t have guns, they don’t have anything. So whenever they decide to make a stance, what happens is what happened a couple of days ago. The military comes out, they crack down, they throw people in jail, they kill people, and they restore order as quickly as possible by force, by the force of the gun.

So those are a couple of things I think you should be doing.

The last part is, I love my colleagues on the other side of the aisle. We talk about how we need to work with our coalition partners, but where are the coalition partners when it comes to Cuba? We need to go find them right now.

Del Guidice: We have lawmakers in Congress, … Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, who are very favorable to the ideas of socialism and communism. Given what’s happening right now in Cuba, what would you tell them, or even students who want to think about these ideas, what would you tell them about what’s happening in Cuba right now and how that illustrates down the road if a country like ours were to embrace communism?

Donalds: This is the manifestation of your ideas. That’s what I say. Your ideas will take us to this point, take us to this place. That’s not a country or a nation that allows people to thrive and succeed. Our country is not perfect, but we’re the most perfect. It’s without question.

I don’t care what they say, because the truth of the matter is that in our country, you can succeed or fail. In Cuba, you can only fail, or better yet, the way that sometimes they will like to look at it, everybody has the same. But what that means is they have nothing. So I would rather people have the ability to succeed or fail than have nothing. That’s the beginning and the end of that argument.

And I think that young kids in our country, when they look at ideas like communism or fascism or socialism or Marxism in general, because it’s all based on Marxism at its core, they need to understand the natural outgrowth of that political ideology is a destitute country with even more destitute people.

Del Guidice: Well, dissidents in Cuba had been waving American flags in the streets and you even commented on Twitter and talked about, I think The New York Times had said something disparaging about the flag. And you said that they have a warped view of the American flag that fuels divisiveness in this country. Can you talk a little about that tweet and that attitude of divisiveness that we see right now against the flag and against the country?

Donalds: Oh, that’s because the Times and the political media left—and notice what I said, the political media left—they have no problem being in support of people who are disrespectful to the flag and don’t want to stand for the anthem and so on and so forth.

And they take these issues of police violence that have occurred in instances in our country, they take that as an ability to whitewash the entire country.

No. The flag is bigger than any of us. The flag is bigger than Republican, Democrat. The flag is bigger than white and black. The flag is bigger than rich or poor. The flag represents the true beacon of freedom and liberty in the world. And not just today, but in the history of the world. That’s what the flag represents.

So for them to constantly allow for the flag to be demeaned, yes, it’s politically divisive. And that’s why I tweeted what I tweeted.

Del Guidice: You gave a shoutout recently on Twitter to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, and you talked about how Florida is the 15th largest economy in the world and No. 2 in the nation. Can you talk about … your help and how you did this and how Florida is leading in this way?

Donalds: First of all, we have the best governor in the country. Let’s just be very clear. Sorry to the other 49. Ron DeSantis is the best governor in the country. [South Dakota Gov.] Kristi Noem, she’s No. 2. I love Kristi, but Ron is the best governor in the country. Sorry, Kristi, but that’s how I feel. I also live in Florida, so he’s the best governor.

But that being said, I think he’s done a fantastic job. What he has done is he actually looked at data and didn’t make political decisions. It’s allowed our state to thrive.

What he’s done is make sure that state government, which actually has far more powers than the federal government, for that state government’s approach to how they deal in the affairs of the people here of Florida is the right balance between governmental authority, which does exist, but the freedom of people.

And what we’ve seen is the vote of feet that Milton Friedman has talked so much about. People have fled New York, New Jersey, the Midwest, Michigan, whatever. They’ve come here, as opposed to our people going there. They ain’t going up there, they’re coming here. So that’s proof positive No. 1.

No. 2, I would tell you about Florida in January. We’ve had 27 years of consistent Republican/conservative governance.

[Rep.] Charlie Crist was governor. Charlie was a Republican. I don’t know what Charlie is. Charlie’s trying to be governor again now as a Democrat, so let the voters of Florida, let that sink in. Charlie is for Charlie. Charlie does not have a political ideology. He’s about whatever Charlie wants to do to be in power, but that’s a whole ‘nother story for another day.

Our state has had consistent Republican governance for 27 years. This is not an accident, what Florida has become. And Florida, in my view, is what California used to be. We are the state that is now the beacon for the country.

Ron has done a fantastic job, but it’s bigger than Ron. It’s bigger than [Sen.] Rick Scott. It’s definitely bigger than Charlie Crist. It’s bigger than [former Gov.] Jeb Bush. It has been their leadership the last 27 years in our state, collectively, the leadership of Republican legislatures, both House and Senate consistently for 27 years, that has made Florida the beacon of freedom, opportunity, liberty, commerce. It’s Freedom Town, USA.

Del Guidice: Speaking of Freedom Town, USA, … Gov. DeSantis made the decision to stay open and he opened the beaches. He opened the economy, essentially, during the height of COVID. And so many people, especially in the media, said, “This is a wrong decision. People are going to die. This is not smart.” What were people in Florida saying as they watched the rest of the country go deeper and deeper, basically into recession in terms of what was happening in the economy?

Donalds: We were saying, “Thank God Andrew Gillum’s not our governor.” That’s what we were saying. Because if 18,000 votes go the other way, Florida’s story is a very different story altogether.

The governor, he looked at the data, like I said. He looked at the people who have the real issues with COVID-19 are plus-65; that schoolchildren actually have little to no issues with COVID, so we need to reopen schools; that actually being out, running your business, being at our beaches, going to restaurants was not going to be the death nail to our state.

Did we have COVID cases and deaths in our state? Yes, but so did every state. So did every country, every face, every point of the planet right now.

But if you look at our data, per capital, per thousand, however you want to view it—the right way to view it, by the way, not just counting cases and counting deaths the way the news media likes to do this, fearmongering, scare everybody. If you do it the appropriate way, our numbers are in the middle of the country. We were the middle of the road in the country.

Our economy has been able to get back on its feet. Business owners have been able to get started far earlier than other states. People were able to go live their lives. Families were able to go to the beach and enjoy themselves. It’s actually a real success story of what happens when you don’t follow politics and you actually follow science.

Del Guidice: Before we wrap up, I want to talk about critical race theory. We see this infiltrating schools across this country. Part of what we saw in the pandemic was a lot of families and parents saw what their children were learning in school because they were at home and they heard these things and they were very bothered by them. What is your perspective on this that we’re seeing in schools and how do parents address it if they’re concerned by it?

Donalds: I want to be very descriptive of the issue. Critical race theory is pervasive through a lot of institutions in our country. It’s actually been on the move for more than a decade now, the way it’s been going, about a decade give or take.

What happens is our teachers go through their diversity inclusion training and the training is run by these organizations that subscribe to critical race theory.

That’s the entire purpose of the nonprofit, is critical race theory or anti-racism or whatever you want to call, that is what has gotten into our faculty, into our administrators. That is now being distilled down into our kids, either through what the teacher says in class or through graphics that show up in class, or “the triangle of white supremacy,” which has shown up in a lot of classes. It’s a children’s book, which is now beginning to permeate. There are children’s books that have this ideology within the book itself. That’s how pervasive it is.

Parents have to be very active about their child’s education at their local school board. I’ll tell you about school board members, or frankly, any elected officials. A school board member or an elected official doesn’t really care if three people call. If 30 people call, they look. If 300 people call, they say, “Oh, wait a minute.” If 3,000 people call, “Oh, we got a problem.”

And this is the way people need to organize themselves. You have to understand that we have more numbers than they do. There are more of us than there are of them. And politically speaking, we have to be far more engaged, far more active, far more organized.

Unfortunately, conservatives and frankly, regular Americans have blended in the country. That’s why the left has taken so much ground. We need to make sure we remove [critical race theory] from these diversity and inclusion seminars.

And understand, moving critical race theory out of them, still have diversity and occasional seminars. I’m a black man. Look, diversity and inclusion is a good thing, but the insipid nature of the ideology of critical race theory needs to be reserved for academic theorists at the master’s and doctoral degree level, to to be frank and honest with you.

At that level, when you’ve had a chance to learn our history in full depth and you can sit down and take different Supreme Court cases, different laws that will pass in different states at different times, and sit there and theorize and construct all that into a worldview, save that for master’s-level, doctoral-level work.

You want to bring that into a third grade classroom? Are you kidding me? You’re trying to teach kids two- and three-digit math in the third grade. How are you going to distill the nuance of race in America in the third grade? You can’t.

So the problem is that it’s because you can’t do that, you drop these nuggets of oppression versus oppressed, because that’s simple to drop into the minds of young people. You drop that into the minds of our young people, you are going to destroy the greatest nation man’s ever known. It takes parents and it takes community members to be active and engaged and to not be afraid of this.

Del Guidice: As someone who is a black conservative, would you say critical race theory furthers racism in this country?

Donalds: It does. It furthers division in this country. If you want to talk about having a post-racial society, then what you really have to do is just embrace people for who they are, not the color of their skin.

As a black Republican, you know all the stuff I get called on social media? Uncle Tom this, Sambo that. I got the receipts. I got the receipts to prove it. And the funny thing is that comes from the political left. Go figure.

I think what happens is … in our country, if we’re going to be post-racial, a black man is allowed to be conservative. A white man is allowed to be a liberal. A white woman, she could be a libertarian. The first label doesn’t even matter. A man is allowed to be conservative. A man is allowed to be liberal. A woman can be libertarian or she can’t. Everybody’s free to do this for themselves. Your race does not matter.

And if we continue that for a third generation from the civil rights movement, do you know how far along of a country we’re going to be? Look at all the beauty around us, at the two generations since the ’64 Civil Rights Act and the ’65 Voting Rights Act, two generations. Look how far we’ve progressed. If you try to bring that into our country now, you’re going to unwind some of that progress.

But now what you’re going to do is the worst, so you’re going to say, “Oh, well, because it happened to us, now it can happen to you.” No, two wrongs don’t make a right. You don’t battle hate with hate. You battle hate with love.

This sounds like things that the left always used to talk about. I’m looking for them. I’m looking for the liberals. Where are they going? Because you actually challenged hate with love. You deal with racism with tolerance and openness, not exclusion.

Del Guidice: We couldn’t end on a better note. Congressman Donalds, thank you so much for joining us on “The Daily Signal Podcast.” Always great to have you with us.

Donalds: Anytime. Thanks for having me.

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