WASHINGTON – The Biden administration on Thursday announced new sanctions against a Cuban official and a government entity that it says has been implicated in human rights violations during a government crackdown on protests on the island earlier this 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.
In a statement, President Joe Biden said the sanctions were “just the start” of measures to hold those responsible for the crackdown to account.
“I unequivocally condemn the mass detentions and mock trials which unjustly condemn to prison those who dared to speak out in order to intimidate and threaten the Cuban people to be silent,” Biden said.
The United States would work with regional allies to continue supporting the Cuban people, the president added. This includes working with civil society groups and the private sector to provide internet access that bypasses government censors and reviewing US policy on remittances, which were restricted under the Trump administration. The United States has also pledged to staff the Embassy in Havana to provide consular services to Cubans, Biden said.
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.
“We made it clear last week that addressing this moment is a priority for the administration and for President Biden,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said.
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.
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 protesters in Cuba.
Other measures included the establishment by the State Department of a task force to review the United States’ remittance policy to ensure that the money Cuban-Americans send home. reaches their families directly without the regime taking a share.
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.