President Joe Biden on Thursday announced new sanctions targeting Cuban government and military officials following a violent crackdown of a pro-Democracy demonstration.
“This is just the beginning,” said Biden. “The United States will continue to sanction individuals responsible for oppression of the Cuban people.”
Biden’s decision comes one week after thousands of people took to the streets to protest decades of authoritarian rule and demand the removal of President Miguel Canel-Diaz. Protestors also expressed frustration with food and medicine shortages, power outages, and lack of Internet access.
The sanctions were celebrated by Republicans including Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who had called on the president to help restore Internet access to the people of Cuba.
“The one thing Communist regimes fear the most is the truth, and if we’re able to help Cubans communicate with one another, also communicate to the outside world, that truth is going to matter; that truth I think will be decisive,” said DeSantis.
This week, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki confirmed the Biden Administration would be looking into a “range of options” including “humanitarian assistance, addressing issues like the lack of Internet access.”
DeSantis also called on the Cuban military to reject Communism and support the protests. “The best role for the military…is to realize that time’s up, that you can’t keep doing the bidding of a repressive dictatorship that is not governing with the consent of the governed.”
President Biden’s decision to sanction Cuban officials is a departure from his campaign promises regarding the island; namely, to restore the Obama-era relationship between the US and Cuba.
Supporters say the sanctions will exert pressure on the Cuban government and empower protestors, while critics claim the move is nothing but symbolic.
“The sanctions architecture built around Cuba makes these designations entirely redundant,” argues Ryan C. Berg, a senior fellow in the Americas program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, DC. “The sanctions are purely symbolic and meant to give the impression that the Biden Administration is responding rapidly to the Cuban protests when these actions really are not doing much.”
That being said, it is unclear what effects the sanctions will have given the lack of American assets held by those targeted.
Cuba’s Interior Ministry was blacklisted during the Trump Administration.