The US imposed economic sanctions on Cuba’s army in response to Havana’s crackdown on protesters, in an attempt by Joe Biden to increase pressure on the communist regime.
The sanctions announced by the Treasury Department on Thursday targeted Cuban Defense Minister Alvaro Lopez Miera on “serious human rights violations” in connection with the protests, as well as the “Black Berets”, a unit of the department of home affairs that after restraining the unrest.
Thousands of people took to the streets on July 11 in Cuba’s biggest protests against the government in decades, in what turned out to be spontaneous protests in several cities and towns. protest against shortages of food and medicine and calls for greater freedoms.
The government responded by sending the police in large numbers to disperse the protesters and restrict internet access in most of the island. Human Rights Watch later said about 400 people had been detained.
“I unequivocally condemn the mass detention and mock trials that are being unjustly imposed on those who dare to utter it in an attempt to silently intimidate and threaten the Cuban people,” Biden said in a statement on Thursday.
“The Cuban people have the same right to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly as all people. “The United States stands with the brave Cubans who have taken to the streets to face 62 years of oppression under a communist regime,” the US president added.
Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel has repeatedly blamed exiles in the US for encouraging and organizing the protests. Like Cuban leaders before him, he pointed the finger at the U.S. embargo because it caused shortages and economic hardships, although independent economists say the country’s state-owned economy and inefficient central planning play a major role.
The Díaz-Canel administration hoped that Biden would revive the Obama-era policy of detente with Havana. Despite promises by the US President about the campaign to alleviate some of the humanitarian consequences of the embargo, this hope has so far been frustrated.
Cuba’s repression against the protesters limited Biden’s political space to make any move towards dialogue with Havana.
Biden said the US would continue to sanction individuals responsible for the oppression of the Cuban people, while working with “civil society organizations and the private sector to provide internet access to the Cuban people bypassing the regime’s censorship efforts. “.
He said the US was also reviewing our overpayment policy to determine how we could maximize support for the Cuban people, and was committed to ‘expanding our embassy in Havana’ to ‘provide consular services to Cubans and improve our ability to deal with civil society. ”.