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Biden to discuss new sanctions against Cuban regime with Cuban-American leadership

The issues are expected to be discussed when Biden meets with Cuban American leaders at the White House later today, the official told reporters.

The Treasury Department’s Foreign Assets Control Office on Friday released the sanctions, designated by Magnitsky’s Global Human Rights Accountability Act. The sanctions target Cuba’s Revolutionary National Police – the country’s main law enforcement body; Oscar Callejas Valcarce, the director of police; and Eddy Sierra Arias, Deputy Director of Police.

The sanctions, the Treasury Department said, “were taken as part of efforts to suppress peaceful and pro-democratic protests.”

The official also said that the administration would announce “efforts to improve internet connectivity and other means to ensure that we support the ability of the Cuban people to communicate with each other and receive information like something. which should be treated as a human right. ”The official said the administration had been in contact with private providers about LTE connectivity options.

The official also said that “given the protests on July 11, it is important that American diplomats engage directly with the Cuban people. And if we can do so in a way that ensures the safety of American personnel, c ‘is something that we are going to undertake. But we can say more about it in the meeting. “

Friday’s meeting comes weeks after Cuba saw the biggest protests in decades when thousands took to the streets to protest the lack of food and medicine as the country goes through a deep and worsening economic crisis by the Covid-19 pandemic and US sanctions. Meanwhile, Democrats are also under pressure to take a tougher line against the Cuban regime amid the inroads made by former President Donald Trump in 2020 among Cuban Americans in Florida.
The President will meet with Felice Gorordo, CEO of eMerge Americas and Co-Founder of Roots of Hope; Yotuel Romero, the singer of the Cuban hip hop group Orishas and the author of Patria y Vida, the song that has become a hymn for the demonstrators; Ana Sofia Pelaez, founder of the Miami Freedom Project and former Miami Mayor Manny Diaz, according to the official.
The Biden administration last week sanctioned a key Cuban official and a government special forces unit known as Boinas Negras for human rights violations following the historic protests. The sanctions the president is expected to discuss on Friday would be separate from those previously announced sanctions.

Last week’s sanctions came after Cuban-American groups and some members of Congress criticized the administration for not taking a tough enough approach to the Cuban regime.

The president issued a statement condemning the mass detentions and “mock trials” of protesters. Biden said in a statement at the time that the actions were “just the beginning” and that the United States “would continue to sanction those responsible for the oppression of the Cuban people.”

The president also said his administration was working with civil society organizations and the private sector “to provide Internet access to the Cuban people that circumvents the regime’s censorship efforts.”

The president also asked his administration to examine remittances to Cuba, or the practice of Americans transferring money to their Cuban relatives, to determine ways for those residing in the United States to send money. money in the country.

The Cuban government controls the financial sector and all communications on the island, and Biden said he believes under the current circumstances, remittances will end up in the hands of the regime.

Bypassing the government to send money or improving and expanding internet access is a challenge other US administrations have attempted and failed to overcome, but the problem has become increasingly urgent following the historic protests. and generalized.

Biden has said during his presidential campaign that he will try to overturn Trump-era policies on Cuba which he says “hurt Cubans and their families.” But Biden’s review of those policies remains ongoing, and people familiar with the discussions told CNN that the review is unlikely to result in a return to the policy of normalizing relations with Havana. Obama era.

The Cuban government has shown no sign in recent years of easing its political and economic repression of the Cuban people, which has dramatically narrowed the Biden administration’s options to return to normalized relations.

South Florida Democrats have privately and publicly urged their party leaders to support the protests against the Communist regime in Cuba. These Democrats believe that standing alongside the Cuban people could help the party regain ground with the state’s various Hispanic voters, nearly half of whom voted for Trump in 2020 with a swing of nearly 10 points from the state’s. four years ago.

This story has been updated with further developments.

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