The United States has imposed new sanctions against a Cuban security minister and an Interior Ministry special forces unit for alleged human rights violations during protests on the island.
President Biden said this was “just the beginning” of a declaration who also condemned “mass detentions and mock trials”.
“The United States will continue to sanction those responsible for the oppression of the Cuban people,” he said.
He comes after thousands of people took to the streets of Havana and other cities for anti-government protests earlier this month to protest food shortages and high prices, as well as the handling of the COVID pandemic.
Mr Biden has faced calls from expatriates and Cuban politicians to show more support for the biggest protests on the communist island for years.
Alvaro Lopez Miera, a military and political leader, and the Interior Ministry’s special brigade are subject to the latest sanctions.
The US Treasury said Mr. Lopez Miera had played a “critical role in suppressing ongoing protests” and headed a unit “whose members have engaged in serious human rights violations.”
He said Cuban security services attacked protesters and arrested or disappeared more than 100 people in an attempt to quell the protests.
CubaForeign Minister Bruno Rodriguez tweeted that the allegations were “baseless and defamatory” and suggested that Biden also apply sanctions for “daily repression and police brutality” in the United States.
I refute the baseless and defamatory US government. sanctions against the army corps Gral Alvaro López Miera and the special national brigade.
Rather, it should apply to itself the Magnitsky Global Act for the systematic repression and police brutality that claimed the lives of 1,021 people in 2020.
– Bruno Rodriguez P (@BrunoRguezP) July 22, 2021
The president also called on officials to review the policy of sending funds to Cuban families in America to try to ensure that the money arrives directly in the hands of their loved ones without the regime chipping it off.
The money sent to the island each year was previously valued at several billion dollars.
Mr Biden also said he was looking for ways to ensure Cubans still have access to the internet after the Havana government curtailed services such as WhatsApp and Facebook.
“We are working with civil society organizations and the private sector to provide Internet access to the Cuban people that bypasses the regime’s censorship efforts,” his statement said.
The new sanctions suggest that a thaw in relations with Cuban leadership is unlikely at this time as the region unexpectedly rises on the president’s to-do list.
Former President Donald Trump took a hard line with the regime, in stark contrast to Barack Obama’s approach, which in 2016 saw him become the first US president to visit the country in nearly a century.