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US to Sanction Cuban Security Forces After Protests

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US Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced that the US would sanction Cuban security forces in a press release today. Credit: US State Department/Facebook

The United States’ Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced in a press release on Thursday that the US will be sanctioning Cuban security officials over their violent handling of the protests held this month in Cuba.

Secretary Blinken announced on behalf of the US that the country would begin sanctioning the Minister of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Cuba Álvaro López Miera and the Cuban Ministry of the Interior’s Special National Brigade or “Boinas Negras” (Black Berets) starting today. López Miera and the Special National Brigade were the driving force behind the violent containment of the Cuban people’s demonstrations.

It is the US’ position that the Cuban regime exercised an unlawful and unnecessary amount of force in response to the Cuban people’s demonstrations. The statement read:

“Starting on July 11, tens of thousands of Cubans in dozens of cities and towns throughout their country took to the streets to peacefully demand respect for their fundamental freedoms and a better future.

“In response, the Cuban regime violently repressed the protests, arresting hundreds of demonstrators simply for exercising their human rights of freedom of expression and peaceful assembly. The actions of Cuban security forces and violent mobs mobilized by Cuban Communist Party First Secretary Miguel Diaz-Canel lay bare the regime’s fear of its own people and unwillingness to meet their basic needs and aspirations.”

How the protests unfolded in Cuba

Groups of young people marched in protest in the capital city of Havana, disrupting traffic for several hours until police moved in.

The protesters, chanting the slogans “Freedom,” “Enough” and “Unite,” were allowed to demonstrate for some time while police monitored their actions from behind. At one point, a motorcyclist even pulled out a US flag, but it was taken from him by others right away.

One middle-aged protester told the Associated Press “We are fed up with the queues, the shortages. That’s why I’m here.” The man refused to identify himself, he said, for fear of arrest.

Cuba is experiencing its worst economic crisis in decades, coupled with a new spike in coronavirus cases, as it suffers the consequences of stronger US sanctions imposed during the Trump administration along with the crippling effects of a downturn in tourism due to the pandemic.

The New York Times quoted Cuban activist Carolina Barrero as saying “It is the most massive popular demonstration to protest the government that we have experienced in Cuba since ’59.”

These most recent protests in the Caribbean nation were set off by a desperate economic crisis fueled by several factors which have combined to seemingly take Cuba to a tipping point.

The tourism dollars normally spent by Europeans and others on the island are no longer flowing in due to the pandemic. The stricter economic sanctions imposed during the previous American administration have also caused reverberations, adding to the misery as many are also out of work because so many restaurants and hotels are still shuttered due to the pandemic.

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