The United States imposed sanctions on the Cuban National Revolutionary Police (PNR) and two of its leaders on Friday for their role in “repressing the peaceful and pro-democratic protests” that broke out on the island on July 11. And President Joe Biden threatened more measures unless “drastic changes” occur.
“There will be more (sanctions) unless there is some drastic change in Cuba, which I do not anticipate,” Biden told reporters at the White House, where he met with Cuban-American leaders.
At the same time, US President Joe Biden was preparing to announce measures aimed at “improve internet connection” on the island.
In a statement, the US Treasury Department announced that it blocked all the properties and interests of the Cuban Police, its director Óscar Callejas Valcarce, and his deputy director, Eddy Sierra Arias, for their alleged role in the repression of protests against the communist government.
The Cuban-American community demonstrated in Washington, in front of the White House, and also in Miami, in rejection of the communist government of Cuba. Photo: AFP
In a statement, the Treasury noted that since the beginning of the July protests, “the Cuban regime deployed the PNR, a police unit under the Cuban Interior Ministry, to repress and attack the protesters.”
He added that police officers were photographed “confronting and arresting protesters in Havana, including the Movimiento de Madres 11 de Julio, a group founded to organize the families of the prisoners and disappeared.”
In Camagüey, a city in the center-east of Cuba, “a Catholic priest was beaten and detained by the PNR while defending young protesters,” said the Treasury, and specified that police agents also beat a group of protesters, including that there were several minors, and they “violently” dissolved peaceful protests.
“Homeland and life” became the motto of the protests against the communist government in Cuba. Photo: EFE
More pressure on Havana
“Today’s measure serves to hold accountable those responsible for suppressing the Cuban people’s calls for freedom and respect for human rights,” said the director of the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) of the Treasury, Andrea Gacki, and promised new punishments for those who “facilitate the participation of the Cuban regime in serious abuses”.
Thousands of people protested on July 11 and 12 in more than 40 cities in Cuba, amid the worst economic crisis on the island in decades and a sharp increase in infections and deaths from covid-19. Marches left one dead, dozens injured and hundreds of detainees.
The new sanctions against Cuba are in addition to those imposed last week on the Minister of the Revolutionary Armed Forces and an anti-riot unit of the Ministry of the Interior, also accused of repression of the recent demonstrations.
The Treasury said that in addition to the measures against these officials and entities, OFCA will continue to apply its sanctions program against Cuba in force for almost six decades, “with exceptions to guarantee that certain categories of economic activity that directly benefit the Cuban people are allowed. “.
Meeting with Cuban exile leaders
The announcement came an hour before Biden received a group of Americans with Cuban roots at the White House, a meeting in which he planned to announce measures on internet access on the island and possibly on sending remittances to Cuba.
“We are going to announce measures to improve the internet connection on the island, to ensure that we support the ability of people to communicate with each other and receive information, which is something that should be treated as a human right,” said the official, who requested anonymity, in a telephone press conference.
A march in support of the protests against the government of Cuba. last Monday in front of the White House in Washington. Photo: AP
Biden also planned to elaborate on two other topics that he has asked his team to study: the possibility of re-authorizing the sending of remittances to Cuba, banned since last November; and the possible transfer of more personnel to the US embassy in Havana.
The official did not guarantee that the president would give the green light this Friday to send remittances to the island, and recalled that the White House wants to first ensure that the island’s government does not keep part of the money, something complicated to guarantee.
This Friday is the second round of sanctions imposed by the Biden government in relation to the unprecedented anti-government protests of July 11 in Cuba.
After last week’s measures, Biden said then that it was “only the beginning” of his response to those who allegedly repressed the protests this month.
Attending this Friday’s meeting with Biden at the White House the Cuban singer Yotuel Romero, whose song “Patria y vida” became the “soundtrack” of popular protests in Cuba; as well as Democratic Senator Bob Menéndez and congressman from the same party Gregory Meeks.
Also present are Manny Díaz, former mayor of Miami (2001-2009); Felice Gorordo, Cuban-American businessman and CEO of eMerge Americas; and Ana Sofía Peláez, co-founder of the organization “Miami Freedom Project”.
Source: EFE and AFP