HAVANA. Cuba, Fri. July 23, 2021– The President of the United States of America, Joe Biden, announced on Thursday, July 22, the imposition of new sanctions on the head of the Cuban military, Alvaro Lopez Miera, and Cuba’s Interior Ministry.
The new sanctions were introduced following protests about a week ago in the streets of Cuba in which thousands of Cubans engaged in demonstrations in response to an economic crisis in the country that has resulted in a shortage of food and basic necessities, and power outages. They are also protesting the government’s management of the Covid-19 pandemic and the pandemic-related regulations that are in place.
A number of activists have since been arrested and detained. The Cuban authorities confirmed that they had started trials for those persons who were detained on charges of instigating unrest, committing vandalism, and propagating the coronavirus pandemic, or assault charges, which carry prison sentences of up to 20 years.
In his statement, Biden said, “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 added, “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.”
In response to his statement, the Foreign Minister of Cuba, Bruno Rodriguez, said that the US should instead apply those measures on itself for the daily repression and policy brutality that occur in that country.
In his remark on Twitter, Rodriguez said, “I refute the unfounded and slanderous US gov. sanctions against Army Corp Gral Alvaro Lopez Miera and the National Special Brigade. It should rather apply unto itself the Magnitsky Global Act for systemic repression and police brutality that took the lives of 1021 persons in 2020.”
Since Biden’s announcement, over 400 individuals and groups signed on to an Open Letter to the President first published in the New York Times, urging the president to, “end the Trump ‘coercive measures’ and return to the Obama opening or, even better, begin the process of ending the embargo and fully normalizing relations between the United States and Cuba.”
During his 2020 presidential campaign, Biden made commitments to seriously look at the embargo with a view to relaxing the Trump anti-Cuba measures which are hurting the Cuban people on the ground. This recent move indicates that his administration is moving in the opposite direction.
In regard to the detentions in Cuba, the Cuban government has blamed US-backed “counter-revolutionaries” who are exploiting the economic hardship brought on by the US sanctions.
The Cuban president, Miguel Diaz-Canel, said that those persons will “receive the response that Cuban legislation allows for, and it will be energetic,” during a statement on state television.
Since then, many photos of persons detained and their stories have been shared on a Facebook page called “Disappeared #SOS Cuba.” Reports are that a majority of individuals detained are being kept incommunicado at undisclosed locations.