President imposes sanctions on Cuba

- Deirdre Shesgreen, Rebecca Morin and Courtney Subramania­n

WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden announced new sanctions Thursday targeting a top Cuban military official and a unit of the government’s repressive state security apparatus, which he said was responsibl­e for the brutal crackdown on historic protests across the island this month.

Biden’s decision marks a shift from his promises during the campaign, when he vowed to restore the Obamaera thaw in U.S.-Cuba policy. Administra­tion officials and Cuba experts say the unpreceden­ted protests in Cuba have prompted a change in Biden’s strategy and rhetoric on Cuba.

“This is just the beginning – the United States will continue to sanction individual­s responsibl­e for oppression of the Cuban people,” Biden said in a statement Thursday.

In Thursday’s action, the White House used a federal human rights law to sanction Alvaro Lopez Miera, minister of Cuba’s Revolution­ary Armed Forces, and a special brigade in the government’s intelligen­ce ministry.

Critics of Cuba’s communist government applauded the announceme­nt, although it’s not clear if the penalties will carry much of a punch. It’s unlikely that Miera holds any assets in the United States that could be frozen under Thursday’s move. And the Trump administra­tion had already blackliste­d Cuba’s Interior Ministry.

Ryan C. Berg, an expert on Latin America at the Center for Strategic and Internatio­nal Studies, said the designatio­ns “signal the important role that Cuba’s Ministry of the Interior plays in the state’s violent repression.”

But, he said, they will have little practical effect.

“The sanctions architectu­re built around Cuba makes these designatio­ns entirely redundant,” he said. “The sanctions are purely symbolic and meant to give the impression that the Biden administra­tion is responding rapidly to the Cuban protests when these actions really are not doing much.”

Biden said his advisers were working on other steps, including avenues to restore internet access to Cubans after the government blocked sites used to organize the July 11 demonstrat­ions.

“As we hold the Cuban regime accountabl­e, our support for the Cuban people is unwavering,” Biden said.

Thousands of Cubans took to the streets July 11 to protest food and medicine shortages, power outages and spiraling prices, prompting the largest protests seen on the communist island in three decades. The protesters faced arrest and violence as a result.

Sen. Bob Menendez, chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, said the Biden administra­tion’s decision sent a clear message to the Cuban government. “The U.S. stands with the people of Cuba and there will be consequenc­es for those with blood on their hands,” the New Jersey Democrat wrote on Twitter.

State Department spokesman Ned Price said he could not divulge whether any targeted individual­s or entities had assets in the U.S.

When pressed on the practical effect, Price said there was “an important messaging element” to the sanctions. “It’s an important signal of our determinat­ion to hold accountabl­e those responsibl­e for this (crackdown),” he told reporters at a briefing Thursday.

 ?? SAUL LOEB/AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES ?? The sanctions announced Thursday will have little practical effect, an analyst says.
SAUL LOEB/AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES The sanctions announced Thursday will have little practical effect, an analyst says.

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