Biden administration will sanction more Cuban officials ahead of White House meeting with activists
The Biden administration imposed new sanctions on Cuban officials as President Joe Biden prepares to meet with Cuban American activists at the White House on Friday.
The Treasury Department announced sanctions on Cuba’s police force (known as the National Revolutionary Police), Director Oscar Cellejas Valcarce, and Deputy Director Eddy Sierra Arias. “In Camagüey, a Catholic priest was beaten and arrested by the PNR while he was defending young protesters; officers of the PNR also beat a group of peaceful demonstrators, including several minors,” according to a Treasury statement.
These follow sanctions levied by the administration last week targeting Cuba's defense minister and its special forces brigade for their role in a violent crackdown on protesters. “This is just the beginning,” Biden said in a statement at the time.
Biden has faced mounting pressure from lawmakers and activists to respond forcefully to human rights abuses by the Cuban government during recent protests on the island.
Outside the White House, crowds have gathered daily to call for stronger intervention.
“We've been listening to the protesters ... and we've been talking to members of the community,” this person said, adding that the administration wants to keep the focus on the Cuban people “and on the rights that they're demanding.”
He added: “The focus of the international community needs to be to stand up for them, to stand up for their rights, and to make sure that we're doing everything to support them, including by efforts to provide humanitarian assistance.”
The White House reiterated Biden's opposition to Cuba's "failed" communist government Friday. Administration officials were slow to rebuke the regime after protests broke out earlier this month. One top State Department official for the Western Hemisphere attributed the sweeping demonstrations to an outcry over a lack of COVID-19 vaccines.
"The president has been watching the events closely. As we stated before, he's made clear that Cuba is led by a failed and repressive regime, that communism is a universally failed ideology," White House principal deputy press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said. "That's why, from the start, the president has said that addressing this moment was a priority for the administration."
Biden this week appointed Cuban American Frank Moro to be the next U.S. Ambassador to the Organization of American States, where, Jean-Pierre said, "we have and will continue to regularly urge the countries of the hemisphere to support the fundamental freedoms of the Cuban people."