By Matt Spetalnick
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Biden administration plans to announce U.S. sanctions on Thursday against several Cuban officials for their role in cracking down on anti-government protests earlier this month, people familiar with the matter said.
Sanctions should be imposed on security force officials accused of human rights abuses against activists who have participated in the largest such protests in decades on the communist-ruled island, the two sources told Reuters.
It will mark the first concrete steps by President Joe Biden’s administration to pressure the Cuban government as Washington faces calls from US lawmakers and the Cuban-American community to show greater support for the protesters.
The speed with which the administration has crafted new sanctions signals that Biden is highly unlikely to soften the US approach to Cuba soon after his predecessor, Donald Trump, called off a historic detente in l Obama era with Havana.
Thousands of Cubans staged spontaneous anti-government protests a week ago to protest an economic crisis that has resulted in commodity shortages and power outages. They were also protesting against the government’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic and restrictions on civil liberties. Dozens of activists have been arrested.
Biden had promised during the 2020 presidential campaign to overturn some of Trump’s anti-Cuban policies, but Thursday’s announcement suggests little appetite for a return to rapprochement.
At the same time, however, senior US officials told Reuters that the administration is still looking for ways to alleviate the humanitarian plight of the Cuban people while maintaining pressure on the Cuban government.
The White House said Tuesday that Biden would form a task force to examine remittances to Cuba following protests on the island. The goal is to determine how Cuban Americans can send money to families on the island while keeping the funds out of Cuban government coffers.
Trump had imposed severe restrictions on the flow of remittances, which previously amounted to billions of dollars a year.
The United States is also working with the private sector and Congress to find ways to make the Internet more accessible to the Cuban people, US State Department spokesman Ned Price said at a press conference on Tuesday. regular.
Price made the comment while calling on the Cuban government to restore Internet and telecommunications access to Cubans following a wave of anti-government protests.
The Cuban government blamed the protests primarily on US-funded “counterrevolutionaries”, exploiting the economic hardship caused by US sanctions.
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