Biden keeps pressure on Cuba, meets with Cuban American leaders

President Joe Biden on Friday will announce more targeted individual sanctions on Cuban regime officials and entities as he meets with a group of Cuban-American leaders to discuss his administration’s response to recent historic anti-government protests on the communist-run island.

It comes after thousands of Cuban Americans on Monday protested in Washington to urge Biden to take swift action and do more to support the Cuban people following the island-wide protests. Demonstrations led by Cuban Americans have been ongoing in Washington, Miami and several cities around the country and world in the almost three weeks since protests in Cuba began on July 11.

The Biden administration has begun to roll out its Cuba strategy in recent days, including targeted sanctions on those in Cuba involved in human rights abuses and ongoing efforts to secure internet access and remittances for the Cuban people.

“We’re going to do everything we can to keep Cuba on the frontburner” to keep the focus on the Cuban people and their right to protest peacefully, a senior administration official said in a call with reporters.

The administration on Friday will announce plans to slap more individual sanctions on two Cuban regime officials and one entity, the senior administration official said. The official would not specify the names of those targeted, so as not to get ahead of a formal announcement from the Treasury Department. The sanctions will be imposed under the Magnitsky Act, which allows the U.S. to impose economic sanctions on individuals believed to be engaged in human rights abuses and corruption.

Biden announced last week similar sanctions on the head of the armed forces in Cuba, and the Cuban Ministry of the Interior’s Special National Brigade, known as the “black berets,” for their involvement in the Cuban government’s crackdown. More than 700 protesters have been arrested or are missing following the protests, activists on the island say.

Cuban officials and entities are already largely sanctioned by the U.S., so it’s unclear that Biden’s sanctions will have a significant impact on those targeted. But the senior administration official explained that it’s also about sending a message to the international community and Cuban people.

“Part of it is to layer on sanctions,” the official said. “But the other one is to make sure we are keeping these individuals in the spotlight, not just on the international community but that the Cuban people know that the United States is supporting them and is trying to defend them.”

On Thursday, Biden also announced he would nominate Frank Mora, a prominent Cuban American Democrat, to serve as ambassador to the Organization of American States.

Earlier this week, the foreign ministers of the U.S. and 20 other countries, including Colombia, Greece and Israel, released a joint statement, condemning the mass arrests in Cuba. But U.S. allies like Canada and Spain — both of which have close ties with Cuba — did not sign on.

Prior to the protests, Biden’s team repeatedly made clear that Cuba policy was not a foreign policy priority for the administration. But the protests on the island — the largest in decades — have forced Biden officials to speed up in their efforts to develop a Cuba plan.


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