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Biden sanctions Cuba officials over protest crackdown

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President Biden has authorized US sanctions against Cuban officials in the wake of a crackdown on antigovernment protests.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said that an announcement with details will be made Thursday afternoon.

“We of course condemn mass detentions, sham trials and disappearances that are attempts to threaten the Cuban people into silence,” Psaki said.

Biden will sanction a “small number” of people who work in Cuba’s Interior Ministry and military, the Washington Post reports.

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Critics have called on the president to act amid the crackdown this month on protesters, who condemned Communist leaders while protesting food shortages and a lack of COVID-19 vaccines.

Although US sanctions can be a major inconvenience by freezing the use of bank accounts, credit cards and other financial services, Cuba is largely detached from the international financial system — with salaries averaging $44 per month — and it’s unclear what effect the sanctions will have on the officials.

 A man is arrested during a demonstration against the government of Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel in Havana, on July 11, 2021.
A man is arrested during a demonstration against the government of Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel in Havana on July 11, 2021.
YAMIL LAGE/AFP via Getty Images

It was not immediately clear why Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel, who called the protesters “counter-revolutionary mercenaries” and oversaw the crackdown, is not facing sanctions.

“We are prepared to do anything. We will be battling in the streets,” the Cuban leader reportedly said while urging pro-Communist Cubans to counter-protest.

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Biden said last week the US is investigating whether it’s technically possible to override an internet blackout imposed by Communist authorities on the island. The lack of internet access prevents distribution of information on protests.

Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel (2nd-L) promised he would "battle in the streets."
Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel (second from left) promised he would “battle in the streets” to stop protesters.
AFP via Getty Images

Former President Donald Trump was able to boost support for Republicans among Latinos last year by claiming that Democratic policies could turn the US into a larger version of Cuba or Venezuela.

Biden last week denounced communism — and said socialism wasn’t much better, despite an increasing number of Democrats who self-identify as socialists — when he was asked by a reporter to respond to the Cuba protests.

But Republicans called on him to do more to support the activists in Cuba.

A woman holds a portrait of late Cuban leader Fidel Castro during an "act of revolutionary reaffirmation" in Havana on July 17, 2021.
A woman holds a portrait of late Cuban leader Fidel Castro during an “act of revolutionary reaffirmation” in Havana on July 17, 2021.
YAMIL LAGE/AFP via Getty Images

“As it stands now, he’s basically just sitting there doing nothing,” Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said this week. “He’s leaving these folks out to dry, and what’s gonna end up happening, if they don’t get any type of assistance, is the regime will continue to clamp down, and they’ll eventually stamp this out and then they’ll remain even stronger in power, and that will be a huge blow to the cause of freedom.”

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