(The Center Square) – Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a bill into law establishing Nov. 7 as “Victims of Communism Day,” a national day to honor hundreds of millions of people worldwide who’ve suffered under communist regimes.
Joining DeSantis at a Monday bill signing was Lt. Gov. Jeanette Nuñez, an American of Cuban descent, the bill’s sponsors, president of Miami Dade College, Cuban human rights activists and many local and other officials.
DeSantis announced the new memorial day at the historic Freedom Tower in downtown Miami. The tower houses the Miami-Dade College Museum of Art and Design and its Cuban Legacy Gallery and Exile Experience honoring the legacy of Cuban Americans. The tower, previously the Cuban Assistance Center, is a famous landmark, referred to as Florida’s Statue of Liberty.
From 1959-1964, more than 650,000 Cubans fled the communist regime of Fidel Castro to America. Many arrived in South Florida at the tower, where they began their new life in America.
In addition to signing legislation designating the memorial day, DeSantis announced that he’d approved $25 million in the budget to fund tower renovations and museum educational initiatives.
The new holiday “will honor the more than 100 million people who have fallen victim to communist regimes across the world,” DeSantis said. Every year, Florida students will learn about communist dictators and regimes and those “who suffered and continue to suffer under the weight of this discredited ideology,” he said, referring to an educational requirement in the law.
While students on college campus and liberal faculty members appear to support communist ideology without really understanding it, DeSantis said, “Florida will stand for the truth.”
“I notice that the people who have escaped communism for free societies never choose to go back. I don’t know many of them that do that,” he added, referring to Eastern European countries. “There are probably more Marxists on college faculties in the United States than there are in all of eastern Europe combined. They don’t want to go back to communism.”
DeSantis made the announcement the same day Russian President Vladimir Putin held Victory Day events in Moscow commemorating Russia’s defeat of Nazi Germany on May 9, 1945. Monday also was the 75th day of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Nov. 7 was chosen “to mark the day in 1917 when the Bolsheviks seized power in Russia, which led to the creation of the world’s first communist government,” the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation, which championed the legislation, explains. It’s a day to remember “those who have suffered and died at the hands of communist regimes in the past, and renew our commitment to stand up for those who are fighting for freedom today.”
The USSR, and later the Soviet Union, ultimately fell in 1991. Although its 1993 constitution states it’s ruled by a republican form of government, Putin is viewed by many as a ruthless dictator and war criminal. The foundation argues his alleged war crimes in Ukraine follow the Soviet model of warfare.
Republican state lawmakers, Rep. David Borrero and Sen. Manny Diaz, sponsored the companion bills that became the legislation DeSantis signed into law.
Florida is now the fifth state to officially recognize the Nov. 7 memorial day. Alabama, Texas, Utah and Virginia previously passed resolutions to recognize the day. “Eight others – Arizona, Arkansas, Idaho, Illinois, Missouri, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and South Carolina – are moving to do the same,” the foundation said.
The law requires all public schools to observe the day and all public high schools to teach at least 45 minutes of instruction in their required U.S. Government class on topics related to communist regimes and how victims suffered at the hands of them, according to the bill summary. The curriculum requirements begin in the 2023-2024 school year.
The bill follows a similar one DeSantis signed into law last year, which requires schools to teach about crimes committed by communist regimes and to compare the political ideologies of communism to the principles of the U.S. Constitution.
“Honoring the people that have fallen victim to communist regimes and teaching our students about those atrocities is the best way to ensure that history does not repeat itself,” DeSantis said.
The law also creates numerous honorary designations of transportation facilities and 26 road designations, three of which honor Cubans who fought against the Castro regime. Road designations in Miami-Dade County will honor Arturo Diaz Artiles and Oswaldo Paya, those in Hillsborough County will honor Maximino and Coralia Capdevila.