The Cuban government on Thursday pushed back against new sanctions from the Biden administration over its crackdown on protesters, including quickly executed trials amid allegations of no due process. The communist-led nation has already been subject to a trade embargo from the United States for six decades.
"I refute the unfounded & slanderous US gov. sanctions against Army Corp Gral Alvaro López Miera and the National Special Brigade," tweeted Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez.
Rodríguez said that instead, Biden should apply the Magnitsky Act, which the United States uses to freeze the assets of those accused of human rights abuses, "to himself for acts of everyday repression and police brutality," which he said cost 1,021 lives in 2020.
The anti-government rallies across Cuba have largely ended, Newsweek reported, though they have continued throughout the United States, especially in Florida, which has a large population of Cuban Americans.
The Biden administration announced new sanctions Thursday against a Cuban official and a government special brigade that it says was involved in human rights abuses during a government crackdown on protests on the island earlier this month.
The Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control said Álvaro López Miera, a Cuban military and political leader, and the Brigada Especial Nacional del Ministerio del Interior, or Interior Ministry Special Brigade, are among those who will face the latest sanctions.
The department said in a statement that López Miera ''has played an integral role in the repression of ongoing protests in Cuba." Cuba’s Ministry of the Revolutionary Armed Forces, which is led to by López Miera, and other Cuban government security services have attacked protesters and arrested or disappeared more than 100 protesters in an attempt to suppress these protests, according to the Treasury Department.
The regime led by Miguel Díaz-Canel moved quickly, and violently, to stem the protests. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the actions by Cuban authorities, and the violent mobs it mobilized, ''lay bare the regime’s fear of its own people and unwillingness to meet their basic needs and aspirations.''
The Interior Ministry Special Brigade had been sanctioned in January by the Trump administration, which targeted the entire ministry and Interior Minister Lazaro Alberto Álvarez Casas under the Global Magnitsky Act.
''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 in a statement. ''The Cuban people have the same right to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly as all people.''
The move comes after the White House earlier this week announced that Biden had ordered his administration to take several steps to increase pressure on the communist regime after thousands of Cubans took to the streets of Havana and other cities across the island earlier this month to protest food shortages and high prices during the coronavirus crisis.
The Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control had been tasked with exploring sanctioning Cuban officials who committed human rights violations against peaceful protesters in Cuba.
''The Cuban people are protesting for the fundamental and universal rights they deserve from their government,'' Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said. ''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 has also called for the State Department to launch a working group to review U.S. remittance policy to ensure that money that Cuban Americans send home goes directly to their families without the regime taking a cut.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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