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Biden sanctions the Cuban Defense Minister and the ‘black berets’ for the repression of protests

United States President Joe Biden. (Photo: . / SHAWN THEW)

The United States has imposed sanctions on Thursday against the Cuban Defense Minister, Álvaro López Miera, and the National Special Brigade, a military unit known as the black berets, for the repression exerted by the security forces during the anti-government protests that on 11 July they took thousands of citizens to the streets.

In a statement, the US Treasury has indicated that López Miera “played an integral role” in the repression of the protests in Cuba. “The Ministry of the Revolutionary Armed Forces and the security services of the Government of Cuba have attacked demonstrators and have arrested or made more than a hundred disappear in an attempt to suppress the protests,” he said.

The Treasury has accused both López Miera and the National Special Brigade of “incurring serious human rights abuses.” The sanctions mean that all property and interests owned by these people in the United States or owned by Americans are blocked, as are all transactions with Americans.

The president of the United States, Joe Biden, has justified that the sanctions are intended to hold López Miera and the brigade “accountable” and has warned that this “is only the beginning”, underlining that “the United States will continue to impose sanctions to the individuals responsible for the “oppression” against the Cuban people.

In a statement, Biden has detailed that his Administration’s support for Cuban citizens remains “unwavering” and has reiterated that Cuban-Americans are “vital partners” in US attempts to provide “relief to the suffering” of Cuban citizens. Island. In this sense, he has clarified that Washington works with civil society organizations and the private sector to provide Internet access to people who “evade the regime’s censorship efforts” on the island.

“We are reviewing our remittance policy to determine how we can maximize support for the Cuban people,” reiterated Biden, who has also emphasized the “commitment” to “resupply” the US Embassy in Havana to provide consular services to Cubans and Cubans. ensure the safety of your diplomats there.

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Biden has insisted on his “unequivocal condemnation” of “mass arrests” and “shameful trials” that “unjustly” sentence those who “dare” to speak to prison terms, which for the president is an “effort “To” intimidate and threaten “the Cubans to remain silent.

“The Cuban people have the same right to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly as the rest of the people,” he said, before reiterating that the United States supports the “brave” Cubans who have taken to the streets to show their rejection “62 years of repression under a communist regime”.

“Promoting human dignity and freedom is a priority of my Administration and we will work closely with our partners in the region, including the Organization of American States (OAS) to pressure the regime to immediately release political prisoners, restore Internet access. and allow Cubans to enjoy their fundamental rights ”, the president remarked.

“Baseless and slanderous”

For his part, the Cuban Foreign Minister, Bruno Rodríguez, has rejected the sanctions against López Miera and the brigade of the Ministry of the Interior, which he has called “baseless and slanderous.” “The Global Magnitsky Law – which governs international sanctions – should be applied to himself for acts of daily repression and police brutality that cost 1,021 lives in 2020”, he has settled in a message published through his account on the social network Twitter .

These sanctions are imposed on the basis of the so-called Magnitsky global law, a US legislation that allows the US to freeze financial assets and prohibit travel to those who violate human rights in any country in the world. The measure shows Biden’s interest in hardening his policy toward Cuba in light of this month’s protests, despite the fact that during the election campaign he promised to return to the thaw promoted by former President Barack Obama.

The White House is also evaluating other steps, such as reauthorizing the sending of remittances to Cuba, prohibited since last November, although first it wants to guarantee that the money “reaches the hands of the Cuban people directly,” a US official explained to Efe. Another measure that the Biden government is analyzing is the transfer of more personnel to the US Embassy in Havana with the aim of “facilitating diplomatic, consular and civil society participation” and also for “security” reasons.

The president has also ordered his government to work with the private sector and Congress to make the Internet “more accessible” in Cuba, after the blackout of access on mobile phones after the protests. On July 11, thousands of Cuban citizens took to the streets to express their discontent over the shortage of basic products, such as food and medicine, and members of the international community and NGOs, among others, denounced a harsh repression against the protesters. The Cuban government considered that it has seen “worse scenes” of repression and police violence in Europe and denied a “social outbreak.”

This article originally appeared on The HuffPost and has been updated.

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