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WASHINGTON, DC – JULY 29: US President Joe Biden gestures while making remarks in the East Room of the White House on July 29, 2021 in Washington, DC. President Biden spoke on his administration’s effort to vaccinate more Americans and plans to tackle the spread of the delta variant. (Photo by Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)
The Biden administration on Friday outlined a number of efforts related to its Cuban policy — including new sanctions and aid to Cuban dissidents — as President Joe Biden met with members of the Cuban-American community and prominent members of Congress at the White House. Had a meeting.
“Earlier this month, Cubans took to the street in a demonstration of the will of the Cuban people. The regime responded with violence and repression, mass detentions, pretentious trials and disappearances,” he said during the meeting. It also details US efforts related to the US, staffing at the US embassy in Cuba and access to the Internet on the island. “Cuban-Americans are hurting … because their loved ones are suffering. And this, quite frankly, is intolerable.”
The Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Asset Control announced Friday the sanctions designated by the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act. Sanctions target Cuba’s National Revolutionary Police – the country’s primary law enforcement body; Oscar Callejas Valcars, director of police; and Deputy Director of Police Eddie Sierra Arias.
The sanctions, the Treasury Department said, were “in connection with actions to suppress peaceful, pro-democracy protests.”
Asked later whether the US would issue additional sanctions against Cuba, Biden told reporters, “Unless there is some drastic change in Cuba, which I don’t expect, there will be more.”
Biden said the administration is working to assist political dissidents, address the US halt for remittances, increase US embassy staff in Cuba and restore connectivity to the island.
“We are expanding our aid to political prisoners and dissidents,” Biden said. “I have directed the State Department and the Treasury Department to provide me within a month with recommendations on how to maximize the flow of remittances to the Cuban people without cutting off the Cuban military. And we prioritize the safety of our personnel. We are working to increase the number of US staff at our embassy.”
The Cuban government controls the financial sector and all communications on the island, and Biden has said he believes remittances will end up in the hands of the regime under the current circumstances.
Sending money to the government or improving and expanding Internet access is a challenge that other US administrations have tried and failed to overcome, but the issue has gained heightened urgency in the face of historic and widespread protests.
The president indicated that the US is “increasing direct support for the Cuban people by pursuing every option available to provide Internet access to help … the Cuban people essentially bypass the imposed censorship ” Biden previously said that his administration was working with civil society organizations and the private sector to “provide Internet access to the Cuban people in ways that circumvent the regime’s censorship efforts.”
The administration is in touch with private providers about LTE connectivity options, a senior administration official told reporters ahead of the presidential meeting on Friday.
The official also said that “given the July 11 protests, it is important for American diplomats to engage directly with the Cuban people. And if we can do this in a way that ensures the safety of American personnel, that’s it.” That’s something we’ll do.”
Friday’s meeting comes weeks after Cuba was sighted Biggest protest in decades, as thousands took to the streets to protest the lack of food and medicine as the country goes through a severe economic crisis from the COVID-19 pandemic and US sanctions. Meanwhile, Democrats are also under pressure to take a tough stand against the Cuban regime in Florida amid the incursion of former President Donald Trump in 2020 among Cuban-Americans.
The list of attendees to meet with the president included Felice Gorordo, CEO of Emerge America and co-founder of Roots of Hope; Yotuel Romero, lead singer of the Cuban hip hop group Orishus and author of Pateria y Vida, the song that has become an anthem for the protesters; Ana Sofia Pélez, founder of the Miami Freedom Project and Manny Diaz, former Mayor of Miami.
Robert Menendez, Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations of New Jersey and Gregory Meeks, Chairman of the House Foreign Relations of New Jersey also participated.
Separately, the Biden administration last week Accepted A prominent Cuban official and a government special forces unit known as Boinas Negras for human rights abuses in the wake of historic protests.
The sanctions were imposed last week after Cuban-American groups and some members of Congress criticized the administration for not taking a tough approach to the Cuban regime.
Biden said that during his presidential campaign he would try to reverse Trump-era policies on Cuba, saying he had “damaged Cubans and their families.” But Biden’s review of these policies is ongoing, and people familiar with the discussion told CNN that a return to the Obama-era policy of normalized relations with Havana is unlikely as a result of the review.
The Cuban government has shown no signs of easing its political and economic repression of the Cuban people in recent years, which has severely limited the Biden administration’s options for returning to normal relations.
Democrats in South Florida He is urging his party leaders, both privately and publicly, to embrace protest against Cuba’s communist regime. These Democrats believe that standing with the Cuban people could help the party gain ground with the state’s diverse Hispanic electorate, nearly half of whom have voted for Trump in 2020 from four years earlier. Voted in a nearly 10-point swing.
This story has been updated with further development.