Biden Administration Sanctions Head of Cuban Military Over Crackdown on Protesters

The Biden administration imposed new sanctions against a Cuban official for alleged human rights abuses inflicted on protesters during the government’s crackdown earlier this month.

The sanctions, brought against the Cuban defense minister and the head of the nation’s special forces brigade, Alvaro Lopez Miera, were “just the beginning,” President Joe Biden said in a Thursday statement.

Lopez Miera, whose assets were frozen, was added to a blacklist of “specially designated nationals” and cannot enter the U.S. The Treasury Department said Lopez Miera “played an integral role in the repression of ongoing protests in Cuba.”

“Today, my Administration is imposing new sanctions targeting elements of the Cuban regime responsible for this crackdown—the head of the Cuban military and the division of the Cuban Ministry of the Interior driving the crackdown—to hold them accountable for their actions. This is just the beginning—the United States will continue to sanction individuals responsible for oppression of the Cuban people,” Biden said.

Biden condemned “the mass detentions and sham trials” of anti-government protesters in Cuba who demonstrated by the thousands in cities and towns across the island nation. The historic protests were prompted by nationwide food and vaccine shortages in the communist country. Demonstrators filled the streets chanting “freedom” and “yes, we can” while calling for an end to the nation’s decades-old dictatorship.

“I unequivocally condemn the mass detentions and sham trials that are unjustly sentencing to prison those who dared to speak out in an effort to intimidate and threaten the Cuban people into silence,” Biden said. “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 oppose 62 years of repression under a communist regime.”

Earlier this week, Biden tasked the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control to explore sanctions in order to put pressure on the communist regime following the crackdown. Yet already existing economic sanctions and a trade embargo that have been in place for more than 50 years have yet to accomplish their goal of toppling Cuba’s dictatorial regime and are causing its citizens to suffer.

“The Cuban people are protesting for the fundamental and universal rights they deserve from their government,” said Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen. “Treasury will continue to enforce its Cuba-related sanctions, including those imposed today, to support the people of Cuba in their quest for democracy and relief from the Cuban regime.”

Biden said his administration is “reviewing our remittance policy to determine how we can maximize support to the Cuban people.” And said he’d look for more ways to “pressure the regime to immediately release wrongfully detained political prisoners, restore internet access, and allow the Cuban people to enjoy their fundamental rights.”

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