Treasury slaps sanctions on Cuban police power and its leaders over crackdown on protests
A woman holds a sign that reads “America Open Your Eyes” as people wave Cuban and US flags to show support for Cubans who oppose their government during a Freedom rally at the Freedom Tower in Miami on July 17, 2021 to demonstrate. – Cuba’s President Miguel Diaz-Canel condemned on July 17 what he said was a false account of the unrest on the Caribbean island when the communist regime vigorously backed down against allusions of historically widespread discontent. (Photo by Eva Marie UZCATEGUI / AFP) (Photo by EVA MARIE UZCATEGUI / AFP via Getty Images)
EVA MARIE UZCATEGUI | AFP | Getty Images
WASHINGTON – The Biden government imposed another round of sanctions against Cuba’s police force and their leaders for violently cracking down on peaceful protests that broke out on the island more than two weeks ago.
The Treasury Department’s sanctions affect Cuban police director Oscar Callejas Valcarce and his deputy Eddy Sierra Arias, as well as the island’s police force.
“The Treasury Department will continue to designate and name those who facilitate the involvement of the Cuban regime in serious human rights abuses,” wrote Andrea Gacki, director of the Office of Foreign Assets Control, in a statement announcing the sanctions.
“Today’s action is designed to further hold those responsible for suppressing the Cuban people’s demands for freedom and respect for human rights to account,” the statement said.
Last week Washington imposed sanctions on the Cuban Defense Minister and the Communist Nation’s Special Forces Brigade for suppressing peaceful protests that broke out on the island.
The US sanctions came with a warning that if the Cuban government did not rectify the situation, there would be more.
“This is just the beginning – the United States will continue to punish those responsible for suppressing the Cuban people,” President Joe Biden said in a July 22 statement.
Earlier this month, thousands of protesters filled the streets in frustration at a paralyzed economy hit by food and electricity shortages.
The rare protests, the largest the communist country has seen since the 1990s, come as the government struggles to contain the coronavirus pandemic and marginalize the island’s fragile health system.
Protesters gather outside the Versailles restaurant to support the people of Cuba who took to the streets to protest in Miami, Florida on July 11, 2021.
Joe Raedle | Getty Images
Cuban President Diaz-Canel Bermudez said his regime was “ready to do anything” to quell the protests, according to a Washington Post report.
“We will fight in the streets,” he said, adding that the United States was partly responsible for the widespread dissatisfaction in Cuba.
A day later, he appeared alongside members of his government, blaming US trade sanctions for stifling Cuba’s growth.
In response to statements made by the Cuban President, Foreign Secretary Antony Blinken told reporters last week that the United States was not responsible for the list of problems plaguing Havana.
Blinken said Cubans are “tired of the mismanagement of the Cuban economy, lack of adequate food and of course an adequate response to the Covid-19 pandemic”.
“This is what we hear and see in Cuba, and that is a reflection of the Cuban people, not the United States or any other outside actor,” Blinken said.