WASHINGTON – The Biden administration on Thursday announced new sanctions against a Cuban official and a special government brigade who it says were implicated in human rights violations during a government crackdown on protests on the island early of the month.
The Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control has listed Alvaro Lopez Miera, a Cuban military and political leader, and the Brigada Especial Nacional del Ministerio del Interior, or special brigade of the Ministry of the Interior, among those who will face the challenges. last sanctions.
The Treasury said in a statement that Lopez Miera “has played a critical role in cracking down on ongoing protests in Cuba.” The Cuban Ministry of Revolutionary Armed Forces, led by Lopez Miera, and other Cuban government security services attacked protesters and arrested or disappeared more than 100 protesters in an attempt to quell the protests, according to the Treasury.
The regime led by Miguel Diaz-Canel acted quickly and violently to stem the protests. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the actions of the Cuban authorities and the violent mobs they mobilized “expose the regime’s fear of its own people and its refusal to meet their basic needs and aspirations.”
The Interior Ministry’s special brigade had already been sanctioned in January by the Trump administration, which targeted the entire Ministry and Interior Minister Lazaro Alberto Alvarez Casas under the Global Magnitsky Act.
“I unequivocally condemn the mass detentions and mock trials which unjustly condemn to prison those who have dared to speak out in order to intimidate and threaten the Cuban people to be silent,” President Joe Biden said in a statement. communicated. “The Cuban people have the same right to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly as everyone else. ”
The move comes after the White House announced earlier this week that Biden had ordered his administration to take several steps to increase pressure on the Communist regime after thousands of Cubans took to the streets of Havana and other towns on the island earlier this month to protest the food. shortages and high prices during the coronavirus crisis.
Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez immediately took to Twitter to describe the sanctions as “baseless and defamatory” and suggested that Biden himself apply the sanctions “for acts of daily repression and police brutality “in the United States.
The Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control had been tasked with studying the possibility of sanctioning Cuban officials who committed human rights violations against peaceful demonstrators in Cuba.
“The Cuban people are protesting for the fundamental and universal rights they deserve from their government,” said Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen. “The Treasury will continue to apply its Cuban-related sanctions, including those imposed today, to support the Cuban people in their quest for democracy and relief from the Cuban regime.”
Biden also called on the State Department to launch a task force to review the United States’ money transfer policy to ensure that the money Cuban-Americans send home goes directly to their families without the diet take 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 an increase in staff could help it better facilitate civil society engagement in the wake of one of Cuba’s biggest anti-government protests in recent memory.
“We have made it clear over the past week that addressing this moment is a priority for the administration and for President Biden,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said.
Associated Press writer Andrea Rodriguez in Havana.
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