Treasury slaps sanctions on Cuban police power and its leaders over crackdown on protests

A woman holds a sign reading “America Open Your Eyes” as people wave Cuban and US flags during a Freedom Rally showing support for Cubans demonstrating against their government, at Freedom Tower in Miami, on July 17, 2021. – Cuba’s President Miguel Diaz-Canel on July 17, denounced what he said was a false narrative over unrest on the Caribbean island, as the Communist regime vigorously pushed back against suggestions of historically widespread discontent. (Photo by Eva Marie UZCATEGUI / AFP) (Photo by EVA MARIE UZCATEGUI/AFP via Getty Images)


WASHINGTON – The Biden administration imposed another round of sanctions on Cuba’s police force and its leaders for the violent suppression of peaceful protests that broke out on the island more than two weeks ago.

The Treasury sanctions designate Cuban police director Oscar Callejas Valcarce and his deputy, Eddy Sierra Arias, as well as the island’s police force.

“The Treasury Department will continue to designate and call out by name those who facilitate the Cuban regime’s involvement in serious human rights abuse,” wrote Andrea Gacki, director of the Office of Foreign Assets Control, in a statement announcing the sanctions.

“Today’s action serves to further hold accountable those responsible for suppressing the Cuban people’s calls for freedom and respect for human rights,” the statement added.

Last week, Washington slapped sanctions on Cuba’s defense minister and the communist nation’s special forces brigade for the suppression of peaceful protests that broke out on the island.

The U.S. sanctions were coupled with a warning that there would be more to come if the Cuban government did not rectify the situation.

“This is just the beginning – the United States will continue to sanction individuals responsible for oppression of the Cuban people,” President Joe Biden said in a July 22 statement.

Earlier this month, thousands of protestors filled the streets over frustrations with a crippled economy hit by food and power shortages.

The rare protests, the largest the communist country has seen since the 1990s, come as the government struggles to contain the coronavirus pandemic, pushing the island’s fragile health-care system to the brink.

Protesters gather in front of the Versailles restaurant to show support for the people in Cuba who have taken to the streets there to protest on July 11, 2021 in Miami, Florida.

Joe Raedle | Getty Images

Cuban President Diaz-Canel Bermudez said his regime was “prepared to do anything” to quell the protests, according to a report from The Washington Post.

“We will be battling in the streets,” he said, adding that the United States is in part to blame for the widespread discontent in Cuba.

A day later, he appeared alongside members of his government and blamed U.S. trade sanctions for hampering Cuba’s growth.

Reacting to the Cuban president’s comments, Secretary of State Antony Blinken told reporters last week that the United States was not to blame for the laundry list of issues plaguing Havana.

Blinken said Cubans were “tired of the mismanagement of the Cuban economy, tired of the lack of adequate food and, of course, an adequate response to the Covid-19 pandemic.”

“That is what we are hearing and seeing in Cuba, and that is a reflection of the Cuban people, not of the United States or any other outside actor,” Blinken said.

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