The U.S. State Department has blamed Cuban officials who were targeted for suppressing opposition protesters.
The United States has banned eight Cuban government officials from entering the country, accusing them of being involved in suppressing peaceful protesters last July.
In a statement Thursday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken accused the targeted Cuban officials of being involved “in attempts to silence the voices of the Cuban people through repression, unjust detention and severe imprisonment”.
The top US diplomat specifically pointed to the treatment of Cuban protesters who took to the streets in July a wave of unprecedented protests against rising food prices, medicine shortages and other socio-economic issues on the island.
The US has imposed visa restrictions on eight Cuban government officials. Those who send peaceful protesters to prison and sentence them to unjust imprisonment should be held accountable. We stand with the Cuban people in their struggle for freedom.
– Secretary Antony Blinken (@SecBlinken) 6 January 2022
“These eight individuals include Cuban officials related to the detention, sentencing and imprisonment of peaceful July 11 protesters,” Blinken said in the statement, which did not name Cuban officials.
The July protests was the largest in Cuba since the 1959 revolution led by Fidel Castro.
Thousands took to the streets in anger over shortages of basic goods, curbs on civil liberties and the handling of the coronavirus pandemic. Hundreds of protesters were arrested.
The travel ban is the latest action against Cuba instituted by the administration of President Joe Biden, who largely followed his predecessor Donald Trump’s highly criticized policy towards the island.
The US administration has previously spoken out in support of Cuban activists while praising the protest against the government.
The Cuban government has accused Washington of inciting the recent wave of unrest in hopes of destabilize the country, and it also blamed the crippling US sanctions for the dire economic conditions facing many people.
In November, more planned demonstrations frustrated amid the detention of several Cuban opposition figures and laws banning protests. In response, Blinken announced travel bans against nine Cuban officials for what he said were similar actions against protesters.
Blinken said Thursday that about 600 Cuban protesters remain in custody, including some who have seen their health deteriorate and not have access to proper food or medicine.
“The United States continues to use all appropriate diplomatic and economic instruments to urge the release of political prisoners and to support the Cuban people’s call for greater freedom and accountability,” he said in the statement.