The United States on Thursday imposed sanctions on a senior Cuban security official and an interior ministry special forces unit for alleged human rights abuses in a crackdown on anti-government protests earlier this month, APA reports quoting Reuters.
The move marked the first concrete steps by President Joe Biden's administration to apply pressure on Cuba's Communist government as it faces calls from U.S. lawmakers and the Cuban-American community to show greater support for the biggest protests to hit the island in decades.
The speed with which the administration has crafted new sanctions further signals Biden is highly unlikely to soften the U.S. approach to Cuba any time soon after his predecessor, Donald Trump, rolled back a historic Obama-era détente with Havana.
The U.S. Treasury Department said in a statement that sanctions had been placed on the Interior Ministry security unit and on General Alvaro Lopez Miera, minister of the Revolutionary Armed Forces.
Thousands of Cubans staged protests a week ago to demonstrate against an economic crisis that has brought shortages of basic goods and power outages. They were also protesting the government's handling of the coronavirus pandemic and curbs on civil liberties. Hundreds of activists were detained.
Biden had promised during the 2020 campaign to reverse some of Trump's Cuba policies, but Thursday's announcement suggests little appetite for a return to rapprochement.
At the same time, the administration is still seeking ways to ease the humanitarian plight of the Cuban people.
The White House said on Tuesday that Biden would form a working group to examine remittances to Cuba in the wake of the protests. The aim is to determine how Cuban-Americans can send money to families on the island while keeping the funds out of the hands of the Cuban government.
Trump had imposed tight restrictions on remittances, which are believed to have previously amounted to several billions of dollars annually.