This move shows that the Biden administration is unlikely to soften the US attitude towards Cuba in the short term.
The U.S. Treasury Department announced on Thursday that after suppressing anti-government protests earlier this month, the U.S. imposed sanctions on a senior Cuban security official and a brigade of the Ministry of the Interior.
This move marks the first concrete step in the administration of President Joe Biden to exert pressure on the Cuban government, as the United States faces calls from American lawmakers and the Cuban-American community to show greater support for the protesters.
“This is just the beginning,” Biden said in a statement. “The United States will continue to sanction individuals responsible for oppressing the Cuban people.”
Biden said: “I unequivocally condemn mass detentions and false trials, and unfairly sentence those who dare to speak out to intimidate and threaten the Cuban people to remain silent.”
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki told reporters, “We made it clear last week that resolving this moment is the government’s priority.”
The Ministry of Finance listed 78-year-old Cuban national Alvaro Lopez Miera and the Ministry of the Interior as targets for sanctions.
The speed at which the government is enacting new sanctions further demonstrates that Biden is extremely unlikely to soften America’s attitude towards Cuba soon after his predecessor Donald Trump’s historic effort to unfreeze relations with Havana during the Obama era.
Thousands of Cubans spontaneously staged Anti-government protest A week ago, the economic crisis brought about by protests Shortage of basic commodities And power outages. They also protested the way the government handled the coronavirus pandemic and restricted civil liberties. Many activists were arrested.
During the 2020 presidential campaign, Biden promised to reverse some of Trump’s anti-Cuban policies, but Thursday’s statement showed that there is little interest in restoring reconciliation.
Trump imposed strict restrictions on the flow of remittances, which are believed to have been as high as billions of dollars each year.
On Tuesday, the authorities confirmed that they have begun trials of people detained for inciting riots, vandalism, spreading the coronavirus pandemic, or assaults. These allegations could be sentenced to up to 20 years in prison.
President Miguel Diaz-Canel said on national television last week: “Some people will get the response allowed by Cuban legislation. This will be dynamic.” He promised that there will be proper legislative procedures.
Javier Larondo, a representative of the Cuban Prisoners Defenders, a human rights organization, said that the authorities may imprison the most attractive and effective opposition leaders, who have often been young artists lately, regardless of whether they participated in protests or not.
“In just two weeks, we will have hundreds of political prisoners,” he said.
Cubalex, an exile rights organization, has created a spreadsheet of detainees, which is updated daily as new reports appear, stating that more than 500 Cubans appear to have been detained during or after the protest.
It said the number may be higher, but some families may worry about reporting that relatives have been arrested to prevent retaliation, such as losing their jobs in the state sector.
According to interviews with relatives, Cubalex and Human Rights Watch said that most of the detainees are in solitary isolation, while the whereabouts of some are still unknown.
Cubans have been posting photos of people who claimed they could not find or share detention stories on a Facebook group called “The Disappeared #SOSCuba”, which has more than 10,000 members.