By NAN Staff Writer

News Americas, WASHINGTON, D.C., Fri. July 23, 2021: The U.S. on Thursday sanctioned two Cuban security forces as Havana began jailing several who were part of a peaceful protest on July 11th.

Us Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken announced sanctions on Minister of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Cuba Álvaro López Miera and the Cuban Ministry of the Interior’s Special National Brigade or “Boinas Negras” (Black Berets).

“López Miera and the Special National Brigade have been involved in suppressing the protests, including through physical violence and intimidation,” Blinken said. “We take this action pursuant to Executive Order 13818, which builds upon and implements the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act.”

On July 11th, tens of thousands of Cubans in dozens of cities and towns throughout their country took to the streets to peacefully demand respect for their fundamental freedoms and a better future.

The protests were immediately backed up across the world, including in Little Havana in Miami. However, the Cuban government has responded by arresting hundreds of demonstrators.

“The actions of Cuban security forces and violent mobs mobilized by Cuban Communist Party First Secretary Miguel Diaz-Canel lay bare the regime’s fear of its own people and unwillingness to meet their basic needs and aspirations,” Secretary Blinken added. “We stand with every Cuban seeking a government that respects the human rights and dignity of the Cuban people.”

Cuban authorities confirmed on Tuesday they had started the trials of those detained on charges of instigating unrest, committing vandalism, propagating the coronavirus pandemic, or assault, charges that could carry prison sentences of up to 20 years.

Meanwhile, U.S. President Joe Biden said the new U.S. sanctions on Cuba target those responsible for a crackdown on protesters and that they are only the first step in the American response.

“I unequivocally condemn 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,” Biden said in a statement.

“This is just the beginning – the United States will continue to sanction individuals responsible for oppression of the Cuban people,” Biden added, while noting that the US is reviewing its remittance policy to “maximize support to the Cuban people.”

Washington says it is also committed to restaffing the U.S. Embassy in Havana to provide consular services and engage in civil society “while ensuring the safety of U.S. diplomats serving in Cuba.”

He said the United States is working with regional partners to pressure the Cuban government to release political prisoners and restore Internet access.