WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden will announce sanctions against Cuban officials after the government cracked down on historic protests earlier this month, according to two sources familiar with the plans.
The administration will use a human rights law, the Global Magnitsky Act, to impose sanctions on a handful of Cuban officials, the two people said.
“There will be sanctions … in short order,” said a prominent Florida Democrat who speaks with the White House regularly.
Biden administration officials are “appalled” by the crackdown, said this person, who confirmed the news on the condition of anonymity. Sanctions are “the right step and it probably should be followed with international pressure.”
The State Department’s chief spokesman Ned Price declined to comment Thursday. The White House also declined to comment.
A second person familiar with the administration’s plans said the sanctions are part of a series of moves the president will outline on Cuba policy. Other steps include working to expand Cubans’ access to the Internet and assembling an international coalition to condemn the Cuban government’s crackdown on the protestors.
White House officials see this as a “unique moment,” this person said.
The news was first reported by theWashington Post and Politico.
Thousands of Cubans took to the streets last week to protest food and medicine shortages, power outages and spiraling prices, prompting the largest protests seen on the communist island in three decades. The protesters faced arrest and violence as a result.
Fernand Amandi, a political consultant and Cuban-American Democrat based in Florida, applauded the news of possible U.S. sanctions.
“These will be very well received, not just amongst Cuban exiles around the world, but the international community who bore witness to the abuses inflicted upon the population in Cuba that was simply asking for freedom and for liberty,” Amandi said.
“These moves have real teeth and change the game on how to punish the regime going forward,” he added. They will exert pressure on the Cuban government, Amandi said, “while at the same time emboldening and empowering the protesters on the island.”
Since the protests, Biden said he supports the Cuban people. However, his administration hasn’t announced any policy change or assistance to the protesters on the island.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Tuesday the administration is pursuing measures “that support both the Cuban people and hold the Cuban regime accountable.”
She noted the White House is working with the private sector and Congress to find viable options to make internet more accessible to the Cuban people. There had been internet outages in Cuba following the protests. In addition, Psaki said the Treasury Department was exploring how to hold Cuban officials responsible for violence, repression and human rights violations.
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