US imposes new sanctions on Cuba over human rights abuses

After thousands of Cubans took to the streets of Havana and other cities across the island earlier this month, the White House announced earlier this week that President Biden has ordered his administration to take several steps to raise pressure on the communist regime.

He announced new sanctions Thursday against a Cuban official and a government entity that it says was involved in human rights abuses during a government crackdown on protests on the island earlier this month.

The Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control listed Alvaro Lopez Miera, a Cuban military and political leader, and the Brigada Especial Nacional del Ministerio del Interior, or Interior Ministry Special Brigade, as among those who will face the latest sanctions.

President Joe Biden made a statement that said the sanctions were “just the beginning” of measures to hold those responsible for the imposition accountable. “I unequivocally condemn the mass detentions and sham trials that are unjustly sentencing to prison those who dared to speak out in an effort to intimidate and threaten the Cuban people into silence,” Biden said.

The regime led by Miguel Diaz-Canel moved swiftly, and violently, to propel the protests. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the actions by Cuban authorities, and violent mobs it assembled, “lay bare the regime’s fear of its own people and unwillingness to meet their basic needs and aspirations.”

The Interior Ministry Special Brigade was already sanctioned in January by the Trump administration, which targeted the entire ministry and Interior Minister Lazaro Alberto Alvarez Casas under the Global Magnitsky Act. White House press secretary Jen Psaki stated, “we’ve made clear over the last week that addressing this moment was a priority for the administration and for President Biden.”

Other steps included the State Department creating a working group to review U.S. remittance policy to ensure that money that Cuban Americans send home makes it directly into the hands of their families without the regime taking a cut.

Biden also ordered a review of the viability of increasing staff at the U.S. Embassy in Havana. The White House is hopeful that a boost in staffing could help it better facilitate civil society engagement following one of Cuba’s largest anti-government demonstrations in recent memory.



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