WASHINGTON - The Biden administration on Thursday imposed new sanctions to punish the Cuban defense minister and an elite brigade of government security forces for human rights violations against protesters earlier this month.
From demonstrations oAfter breaking out in Cuba on July 11, the Biden administration has consulted with Washington officials and experts on the extent to which it should impose economic sanctions on authorities accused of ordering or carrying out a brutal response.
The Biden administration concluded that Álvaro Lopez Miera, the chief of the Revolutionary Armed Forces Ministry, "played an essential role in the repression of the ongoing protests in Cuba ", the Treasury Department said in a statement . wave of arrests greater than any other crackdown in years, if not decades.
Activists said at least 150 protesters were arrested or disappeared during the July 11 protests, and internet service was cut across much of the island to quell anti-government sentiment.
Human rights sanctions, issued under the Global Magnitsky Act, allow the US government to freeze property or other assets of United States belonging to those targeted by economic sanctions.
"The Cuban people have the same right to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly everyone, "President Biden said in a statement.
He added: " This is just the beginning - the States -Unis will continue to punish those responsible for the oppression of the Cuban people. "
Jen Psaki, press secretary of Maison Blanche, described the sanctions as part of a series of responses Mr. Biden will deploy to help Cuba as they grapple with government oppression and a growing humanitarian crisis. She said "taking care of this moment was a priority for the administration.
As vice president under administration Obama, Mr. Biden oversaw a policy that reestablished full diplomatic relations with Cuba for the first time in over half a century. But he took a tougher stance as president, a stance that has generally been warmly welcomed by members of Congress - including some Democrats who were in the awkward position of siding with President Donald J. Trump consistently. to contain the communist government of Cuba.
Cubans are increasingly frustrated with their government amid an economic crisis that has included food shortage, power cuts , rampant inflation and growing number of deaths from Covid-19 . The Cuban government, for its part, blamed the United States for a trade embargo and, last week, accused American officials of stoking the unrest.
" Our message could not be clearer: the United States is on the side of the Cuban people and there will be consequences for those with blood on their hands ", Senator Bob Menendez, Democrat of New Jersey and Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, said on Twitter . "@ POTUS is absolutely right to hold the Cuban regime responsible because it is violently trying to crush the hopes and dreams of Cubans.
The Department of State is also considering allowing people in the United States to send money to relatives and friends in Cuba through a transfer process which in past cases has been exploited by government officials who seized part of the funds. Department spokesman Ned Price said earlier this week that the Biden administration was examining how to put money "directly into the hands of the Cuban people ".
Additionally, said Price, the department could increase the number of US diplomats at the US Embassy in Havana, where the minimum number of employees was stripped bare during the Trump administration. It is not clear whennor whether the Biden administration will advance on both fronts.