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Biden Administration Announces Sanctions On Cuban Defense Minister, 'Black Berets' Special Forces Unit For Human Rights Abuses

MIAMI (CBSMiami -- The Biden administration is imposing new sanctions targeting elements of the Cuban regime responsible for human rights violations during recent protests on the Communist island.

In a statement released by the White House, President Biden said he "unequivocally condemns 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. The Cuban people have the same right to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly as all people. The United States stands with the brave Cubans who have taken to the streets to oppose 62 years of repression under a communist regime."

The President said, "Today, my Administration is imposing new sanctions targeting elements of the Cuban regime responsible for this crackdown — the head of the Cuban military and the division of the Cuban Ministry of the Interior driving the crackdown — to hold them accountable for their actions. This is just the beginning–the United States will continue to sanction individuals responsible for oppression of the Cuban people."

The sanctions target not only the Cuban Minister of Defense, Alvaro Lopez Miera, but also a government special forces unit known as the Boinas Negras or "black berets." They are formally known as the National Special Brigade of the Ministry of the Interior, an elite Cuban special forces unit that the government has deployed to crack down on protesters following the widespread anti-government demonstrations on the communist island, according to CNN.

"The Cuban people are protesting for the fundamental and universal rights they deserve from their government," said U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen. "Treasury will continue to enforce its Cuba-related sanctions, including those imposed today, to support the people of Cuba in their quest for democracy and relief from the Cuban regime.

"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. We are working with civil society organizations and the private sector to provide internet access to the Cuban people that circumvents the regime's censorship efforts. We are reviewing our remittance policy to determine how we can maximize support to the Cuban people. And we are committed to restaffing our embassy in Havana to provide consular services to Cubans and enhance our ability to engage with civil society, while ensuring the safety of U.S. diplomats serving in Cuba," said Biden's statement.

"Advancing human dignity and freedom is a top priority for my Administration, and we will work closely with our partners throughout the region, including the Organization of American States, to pressure the regime to immediately release wrongfully detained political prisoners, restore internet access, and allow the Cuban people to enjoy their fundamental rights."

Protests broke out across the island nation earlier this month as Cubans complained about a lack of food and medicine as the country undergoes a grave economic crisis aggravated by the COVID–19 pandemic and US sanctions. Activists say hundreds of demonstrators were detained during the days of unrest.


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