US Treasury sanctions Cuba defense minister and special forces unit
©Wikimedia (Thomassin Mickaël)
US Treasury sanctions Cuba defense minister and special forces unit

The US Department of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control imposed sanctions Thursday against Cuban Defense Minister Alvaro Lopez Miera and an entire special forces unit for alleged human rights violations in relation to the suppression of peaceful protests.

Earlier this month, thousands of Cubans took to the streets in anti-government protests, motivated by dissatisfaction with the Cuban government’s handling of the economy, the COVID-19 pandemic, and the curtailment of civil liberties. Responding to the protests in a televised address, Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel Bermudez urged citizens to use physical force to resist the protests in the country.

The department alleged that Cuba’s Ministry of the Revolutionary Armed Forces, led by Lopez Miera, has played a key role in suppressing ongoing protests in Cuba, through which Cubans are demanding an end to the 62-year-old regime and better living conditions. Further, the department said that the Cuban government deployed the SNB, a special forces unit under the Cuban Interior Ministry, to suppress the protests and has since attacked and arrested protesters, leading to the disappearance of over 100 people.

The department imposed the sanctions in furtherance of the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act, which seeks to target perpetrators of serious human rights violations and corruption across the world.

In a statement, US President Joe Biden said, “the Cuban people have the same right to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly as all people.” He further added, “this is just the beginning—the United States will continue to sanction individuals responsible for the oppression of the Cuban people.”