The move indicates that the Biden administration is unlikely to soften the US approach to Cuba anytime soon.
The United States has imposed sanctions on a senior Cuban security official and an Interior Ministry brigade following the crackdown on anti-government protests earlier this month, the US Treasury Department said Thursday.
The move marks the first concrete steps taken by President Joe Biden’s administration to pressure the Cuban government as the United States faces calls from U.S. lawmakers and the Cuban-American community to show greater support for the Cuban government. demonstrators.
“This is just the start,” Biden said in a statement. “The United States will continue to sanction those responsible for the oppression of the Cuban people. “
“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.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters: “We have made it clear over the past week that addressing this moment is a priority for the administration.”
The Treasury Department has named 78-year-old Cuban national Alvaro Lopez Miera and the Interior Ministry as targets for the sanctions.
The speed with which the administration has crafted new sanctions signals that Biden is highly unlikely to soften the U.S. approach to Cuba soon after his predecessor, Donald Trump, canceled a historic effort by the era to unfreeze relations with Havana.
Thousands of Cubans spontaneously staged anti-government protests a week ago to demonstrate against an economic crisis that has commodity shortage and power outages. They were also protesting against the government’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic and restrictions on civil liberties. Many activists have been arrested.
Biden had promised during the 2020 presidential campaign to overturn some of Trump’s anti-Cuban policies, but Thursday’s announcement suggests little appetite for a return to rapprochement.
Trump had imposed severe restrictions on the flow of remittances, which previously amounted to billions of dollars a year.
Authorities confirmed on Tuesday that they had started trials of those detained for incitement to unrest, act of vandalism, spreading the coronavirus pandemic or assault, with charges carrying up to 20 prison terms. years.
“There are people who will receive the response that Cuban law allows, and it will be forceful,” President Miguel Diaz-Canel said on state television last week. He promised that there would be a proper legislative process.
Javier Larrondo, a representative of human rights organization Cuban Prisoners Defenders, said authorities would likely lock up the most charismatic and effective opposition leaders, who in recent times have often been young artists. whether or not they participated in the protests.
“We will have hundreds of political prisoners in just two weeks,” he said.
Exiles rights group Cubalex, which has compiled a detainee spreadsheet that it updates daily as new reports come in, says more than 500 Cubans appear to have been detained during the protests or after.
He said the tally was likely higher, but some families may fear reporting the arrest of relatives in the event of retaliation such as the loss of their public sector job.
The majority of those detained have been held incommunicado, while the whereabouts of some are still unknown, Cubalex and Human Rights Watch said, based on interviews with relatives.
Cubans have posted photos of people they say they cannot locate or share stories of detentions on a Facebook group called “Disappeared #SOSCuba” with more than 10,000 members.