US sanctions Cuban defense chief, brigade for protest crackdown
'This is just the beginning,' Biden warns, saying US will issue additional blacklistings
The US sanctioned Cuban Defense Minister Alvaro Lopez Miera and Havana's Special Forces Brigade on Thursday for efforts to quell pro-democracy protests on the island nation.
US President Joe Biden said the actions are being taken to hold the Cuban government "accountable for their actions," warning of further sanctions on "individuals responsible for oppression of the Cuban people."
"This is just the beginning," Biden said in a statement. "As we hold the Cuban regime accountable, our support for the Cuban people is unwavering and we are making sure Cuban Americans are a vital partner in our efforts to provide relief to suffering people on the Island."
One person has died and hundreds of others have been arrested amid demonstrations in Cuba.
Cuba Decide, a pro-democracy group, said Tuesday that 219 people have been arrested or gone missing.
Thousands of people took to the streets on July 11 in cities and towns across the country to protest shortages of food, fuel and medicine as well as power outages amid an economic crisis. The protests are the largest upheaval to have erupted on the island in decades.
Biden has come under pressure from Cuban-Americans and US politicians to push back on the crackdown and provide remote internet access to Cuba, which lies about 90 miles (145 kilometers) off the coast of the US state of Florida after the government moved to cut service.
The Treasury Department said Lopez Miera, the defense minister, "played an integral role in the repression of ongoing protests in Cuba, in which Cuban citizens are calling for an end to the 62-year old regime and deteriorating living conditions across the island."
The Special Forces Brigade, known as the Brigada Especial Nacional del Ministerio del Interior (SNB) in Spanish, was deployed by the government during protests this month "to suppress and attack protesters," the department in a statement.
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