US imposes sanctions on Cuban army chief after protests crackdown

The US has imposed economic sanctions on the head of the Cuban military in response to Havana’s crackdown on protesters in an attempt by Joe Biden to increase pressure on the communist regime.

The sanctions announced on Thursday by the Ministry of Finance targeted Alvaro Lopez Miera, the Cuban defense minister, for “serious human rights violations” in connection with the protests, as well as the “black berets”, a unit of the Ministry of Defense. Home Office that was deployed to curb the unrest.

Thousands of people took to the streets on July 11 during Cuba’s largest anti-government protests in decades, in what appeared to be spontaneous demonstrations in multiple cities to protest against shortages of food and medicine and advocate greater freedoms.

The government responded by sending police in large numbers to disperse the protesters and restrict internet access on most of the island. Human Rights Watch later said about 400 people had been detained.

“I unequivocally condemn the mass detentions and mock trials that unjustly lead to prison terms of those who dared to speak out in an effort to intimidate and silence 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 behind the brave Cubans who have taken to the streets to resist 62 years of repression under a communist regime,” the US president added.

Miguel Díaz-Canel, the president of Cuba, has repeatedly blamed US exiles for encouraging and organizing the protests. Like Cuban leaders before him, he has pointed to the US embargo for causing deficits and economic problems, although independent economists say the state-dominated economy and inefficient central planning play a major role.

The Díaz-Canel government had hoped that Biden would revive the policy of detente with Obama-era Havana. Despite the promises made by the US president during the campaign to alleviate some of the humanitarian consequences of the embargo, these hopes have so far been frustrated.

Cuba’s crackdown on the protesters further limits Biden’s political space to take steps toward dialogue with Havana.

Biden said the US would “continue to punish those 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 who are supporting the censorship efforts.” of the regime”.

He said the US was also “reviewing our remittance policy to determine how to maximize support for the Cuban people” and committed to “restaffing our embassy in Havana” to “provide consular services to Cubans and ability to cooperate with civil society”.

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