Speaking from Miami’s Freedom Tower on Monday, Gov. Ron DeSantis called it the perfect place to sign bills that would honor victims of communism, and name streets throughout the state in honor of those who fought communism, including two Cubans in South Florida.
In addition, the state will now commemorate a yearly “Victims of Communism Day” each Nov. 7, so students can learn the injustices of communism. High school students will take 45 minutes of instruction to mark the day, starting in the 2023-2024 school year. Students will learn “how victims suffered under these regimes through suppression of speech, poverty, starvation, migration and systemic lethal violence.”
“Freedom is not free,” DeSantis said. “You have to fight for your rights, and there are a lot people out there who would love nothing more than to put you under some form of oppression.”
During Monday’s news conference, DeSantis invoked the names of Russia’s late Vladimir Lenin and Joseph Stalin; Mao Zedong, the late founder of the People’s Republic of China; Fidel Castro, the late communist leader of Cuba, and Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro.
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DeSantis has faced his own criticism over what his administration wants children to learn in school. The state recently rejected children’s math textbooks, saying that some contained “critical race theory” or other objectionable material meant to “indoctrinate” students. And Florida’s Parental Rights in Education law, derided by critics as “don’t say gay,” prohibits classroom instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity.
The Freedom Tower was originally built as a newspaper’s headquarters, and became the center for the federal Cuban Refugee Assistance Program in 1962, created to aid the thousands of Cubans fleeing the 1959 communist revolution.
DeSantis also signed a bill for $25 million to pay for needed structural repairs and security system for the building, which is considered the “Ellis Island” for Cuban-Americans.
On Monday, DeSantis signed a bill that would allow for the renaming of 26 roads throughout the state.
In Miami-Dade, that includes Southwest 23rd Avenue and Southwest Eighth Street, which will now be called Arturo Diaz Artiles Plaza. Artilis died in 2013.
In 2021, the Miami-Dade County Commission petitioned the state to rename the intersection after Artilis, who was a founding member of the Latin Chamber of Commerce.
A portion of Le Jeune Road in Miami-Dade now will be called Oswaldo Payá Way.
Paya was the the founder of the Cuba’s Christian Liberation Movement, which called for nonviolent civil disobedience against the rule of the Cuban Communist Party and advocated for civil liberties and freedom for political prisoners.
Paya, who received multiple threats from the Cuban government, died in a car accident in Cuba in 2012 after being rammed from behind, a death that his supporters believe involved foul play.
In January, the Miami-Dade County Commission also urged the renaming of that area for Paya.
While speaking to Cubans in Miami about the evils of communism, Florida’s governor likened the Biden Administration to a “regime,” blasting plans to create a board to combat misinformation.
Plans for a Disinformation Governance Board were recently announced to be created within the Department of Homeland Security as a way to “standardize” the department’s efforts to respond to disinformation that could be connected with violent threats to the U.S.
DeSantis said the plans for a “Disinformation Bureau” were “wrong” and “needs to go the way of the buffalo.”
“What they are doing to try to stifle dissent, to try to elevate a chosen political narrative that’s endorsed by the regime and to try to marginalize dissenters is not what a free society is all about,” he said.
Florida’s governor also praised the pending takeover of Twitter, saying he was “thankful Elon Musk is taking over Twitter because he’s going to open it up.”
“I think it’s a good thing they lose control of the narrative,” he said of social media companies.
Musk has repeatedly said he wants to “transform” the platform by promoting more free speech and giving users more control over what they see on it.
One of the most prominent former Twitter users tossed off the site is former President Donald Trump, whose account was suspended following the deadly storming of the U.S. Capitol.
Lisa J. Huriash can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 954-572-2008 or Twitter @LisaHuriash