The Biden administration announced new sanctions Thursday against a Cuban official and a government special brigade that it says was involved in human rights abuses during a government crackdown on protests on the island earlier this month.
The U.S. Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control listed Alvaro Lopez Miera, a Cuban military and political leader, and the Brigada Especial Nacional del Ministerio del Interior, or Interior Ministry Special Brigade, as among those who will face the new sanctions.
The Treasury Department said in a statement that Lopez Miera “has played an integral role in the repression of ongoing protests in Cuba." Cuba’s Ministry of the Revolutionary Armed Forces, which is led by Lopez Miera, and other Cuban government security services have attacked protesters and arrested or disappeared over 100 protesters in an attempt to suppress these protests, according to Treasury.
Cuba's communist regime led by Miguel Diaz-Canel moved quickly, and violently, to stem the protests. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the actions by Cuban authorities, and violent mobs it mobilized, “lay bare the regime’s fear of its own people and unwillingness to meet their basic needs and aspirations.”
"I unequivocally condemn the mass detentions and sham trials that are unjustly sentencing to prison those who dared to speak out in an effort to intimidate and threaten the Cuban people into silence," President Joe Biden said in a statement. "The Cuban people have the same right to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly as all people."
The move comes as Florida Republicans have been slamming the administration for not doing enough to help the Cuban people.
In Miami's Little Havana, thousands of sympathetic protestors are turning out every day, calling on the U.S. government to support freedom in the communist nation.
Wednesday night, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis attended a town hall meeting hosted by Fox News in a restaurant in Little Havana. He called on the Biden administration to support the freedom movement in Cuba.
"From day one, the people of Cuba have been protesting against the communist dictatorship in Havana," DeSantis said. "It's not because of vaccines. It's not because of these side issues. They want a new government. They want a free Cuba. It's incumbent on us to be supportive of these efforts."
"I call on Joe Biden. The communist regime has shut down the internet. Let's work to beam internet to the island of Cuba, so they have a fighting chance. Let's build an international coalition so that the regime knows the free world stands with the people of Cuba," he added.
The Miami protestors say Cuba's government is rounding up and imprisoning dissidents on the island. Human Rights Watch said in a report Wednesday that about 500 had been arrested.
Communicating via social networks, thousands of Cubans first took to the streets July 11 in various parts of the country to voice complaints over power cuts, long lines at stores, shortages of goods, and rising prices, while some called for changes in the government. The protests ended in acts of vandalism, destruction of patrol cars, stone-throwing at hospitals, and looting.
The protests were the largest in more than two decades.
Christian pastors in Cuba are among the hundreds who have turned up detained or missing just days after massive protests against the Communist dictatorship.
Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) reports the wife and child of Pastor Yarian Sierra Madrigal, who was detained amid unprecedented nationwide protests in Cuba on July 11, were forcibly evicted from their home on July 18.
Claudia Salazar and the couple's young son were forced to leave their home after their landlord was threatened by state security that he'd lose the property if he didn't evict them. They are currently staying in a local church, according to CSW sources.
Pastor Sierra has been detained in a wing of the Matanzas women's prison, along with Yéremi Blanco Ramírez.
"The decision to evict Claudia Salazar and her son, particularly at this distressing time, is a vindictive and cruel act by the Cuban authorities, who should instead be concentrating their efforts on taking the calls of the ongoing nationwide protests seriously," said CSW's Head of Advocacy Anna-Lee Stangl.
"We continue to call for the immediate and unconditional release of pastors Sierra Madrigal, Blanco Ramírez, and Rosales Fajardo and for all others detained in connection with the exercise of their fundamental human rights, and for the charges against Pastor Rosales Fajardo's son to be dropped," she added.