The United States has imposed sanctions on Cuba for repressing protests, and Vice President Joe Biden has warned that more are on the way.
Cuba’s defense minister and a special forces unit were sanctioned by the US on Thursday for crushing peaceful rallies, a move President Joe Biden warned was “only the beginning” of harsh steps against Havana.
In response to human rights abuses perpetrated during a crackdown on protests on the island earlier in July, the US Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control froze the assets of minister Alvaro Lopez Miera and the Special National Brigade (SNB), a component of Cuba’s interior ministry.
In a statement, Biden said, “This is just the beginning — the United States will continue to prosecute individuals responsible for the persecution of the Cuban people.”
The penalties were levied under the Magnitsky Act, which authorizes the president of the United States to take action against human rights violations and corruption.
Lopez Miera and the SNB — a special forces squad known as the Black Berets – were “driving the crackdown,” according to Biden, because they were “driving the crackdown” against protestors who took to the streets by the thousands in rare public protests against the communist regime.
“As we hold the Cuban regime accountable, we pledge our unshakable support for the Cuban people,” Biden added.
The president also denounced what he called “mass detentions and bogus trials” that have been used to detain and silence dissident Cubans.
Cuba quickly retaliated, calling the penalties “slanderous” and arguing that the US should concentrate its efforts on domestic repression and police violence.
Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez said on Twitter that he rejects the US government’s “unfounded and defamatory sanctions” against the Cubans targeted.
The sanctions place a financial embargo on all Lopez Miera and SNB assets and interests in the US, as well as prevent any US citizen, resident, or business from dealing with them.
Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen stated, “Treasury will continue to implement its Cuba-related sanctions, including those imposed today, to support the people of Cuba in their search for democracy and freedom from the Cuban government.”
For his part, Biden stated that the US was considering a number of new initiatives.
He said the US is working closely with regional allies such as the Organization of American States to “press the dictatorship to quickly release unfairly incarcerated political prisoners, restore internet connectivity, and allow the Cuban people to exercise their fundamental rights.”
According to State Department spokesperson Ned Price, Washington is also reviewing its position on remittances to Cuba, with the State Department concerned that such cash could “find their way into Cuban government coffers.”
“We will continue to assess what more we can do,” Washington said. Brief News from Washington Newsday.