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Biden administration announces new sanctions of Cuban communist officials

A spokesperson said the White House would be working with Congress and private companies to ensure that Cubans have access to the internet

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Demonstrators shout their solidarity with the Cuban people against the communist government.

Demonstrators shout their solidarity with the Cuban people against the communist government during a rally outside the White House in Washington, Saturday, July 17, 2021.

Jose Luis Magana, Associated Press

The Biden administration has begun to issue new sanctions on Cuban government officials the White House says are responsible for violently suppressing protests of Cuba’s communists regime.

The U.S. Department of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Asset Control announced Thursday that it had sanctioned Cuban Minister of Defense Alvaro Lopez Miera and the Ministry of Interior’s Special National Brigade — a “Black Berets” special forces unit — under the Global Magnitsky Act.

The Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act gives the president of the United States the authority to “impose economic sanctions and deny entry into the United States to any foreign person identified as engaging in human rights abuse or corruption,” according to the Congressional Research Service.

  • “Treasury will continue to enforce its Cuba-related sanctions, including those imposed today, to support the people of Cuba in their quest for democracy and relief from the Cuban regime,” Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said in statement.
  • “The actions of Cuban security forces and violent mobs mobilized by Cuban Communist Party First Secretary Miguel Diaz-Canel lay bare the regime’s fear of its own people and unwillingness to meet their basic needs and aspirations,” Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said in a statement.

State Department spokesperson Ned Price said at a press conference Thursday that he did not expect the new sanctions to be the “sum total” of the Biden administration’s response and a task force has been created to see how remittances may be sent to Cuban people without involving the Cuban government.

  • Price, when asked how Thursday’s announcement of sanctions were different than already existing embargo or sanctions with Cuba, said “there will be repercussion and implications for this individual and this entity and its an important signal of our determination to hold accountable those responsible.”
  • He added that the administration would work with Congress and the private sector to find ways to ensure Cuban people have access to the internet.

Why are Cubans protesting the communist regime?

Frustrated by worsening living conditions and economic collapse in the country, Cubans began protesting against the communist government earlier this month, the Deseret News reported. Díaz-Canel’s regime responded by arresting hundreds of protesters and implementing internet and communications blackouts.

  • “I unequivocally condemn the mass detentions and sham trials that are unjustly sentencing to prison those who dared to speak out in an effort to intimidate and threaten the Cuban people into silence,” President Joe Biden said in a statement Thursday.
  • “This is just the beginning — the United States will continue to sanction individuals responsible for oppression of the Cuban people,” said Biden in the White House press release.