The United States on July 22 sanctioned key Cuban Communist Party officials for human rights abuses following widespread protests across the island nation.
President Joe Biden said in a statement that the administration’s actions against a top-level Cuban official and a paramilitary organization known as Boinas Negras are “just the beginning,” and the United States “will continue to sanction individuals responsible for oppression of the Cuban people.”
In an accompanying press release, the Treasury Department stated that it’s sanctioning Álvaro López Miera, the head of Cuba’s Ministry of the Revolutionary Armed Forces, as well as the Boinas Negras—officially known as the National Special Brigade of the Ministry of the Interior—over serious human rights abuses relating to anti-regime protests starting on July 11.
Cuban authorities have reportedly arrested some 500 demonstrators and activists who partook in the demonstrations, which some described as the largest in decades. Many protesters chanted slogans calling for Cuban leader Miguel Díaz-Canel’s resignation while some protested a scarcity of basic goods and services, a lack of freedom, and worsening living conditions.
The Cuban regime responded to the protests by carrying out mass arrests, cutting internet access, and sending Communist Party militants and paramilitary forces to take over cities and towns.
“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 said.
“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.”
López Miera and the Boinas Negras were sanctioned under the Global Magnitsky Act, which allows for the sanctioning of individuals or groups involved in human rights violations or official corruption, according to the Treasury Department.
Biden on July 22 suggested that more sanctions and other actions are coming.
“We are reviewing our remittance policy to determine how we can maximize support to the Cuban people,” he said.
According to activist Tania Bruguera, Cubans are tired of government abuse and waiting for hours in breadlines. She said Communist Party officials are hypocritical for living a life of luxury while the rest suffer.
“Cubans are doing eight hours in line just to get a piece of bread,” Bruguera told Politico this week. “And at the same time, the housing situation is worse. People said, ‘Enough.’ … They see people in power and their kids living the great life. A few months ago, the grandson of Fidel [Castro] did a video in a Mercedes Benz, very arrogantly showing off his life while the people are starving.”