U.S. imposes fresh sanctions on Cuba, pledges more measures

August 1, 2021 - 10:31

The United States has imposed fresh sanctions on the Cuban police force and two of its leaders in response to the police’s alleged human rights violations during rare protests on the Island.

During a meeting with Cuban-American leaders, U.S. President Joe Biden promised more punitive measures are on the way against Havana. 

According to the U.S. Treasury Department, the sanctions also targeted the Cuban interior ministry's national police force.

Biden’s meeting came as Cuban-American community leaders made a call for more support for protests in Cuba. Just last week, Washington announced sanctions on Cuba's defense minister and an interior ministry Special Forces unit.

Among the anticipated upcoming American measures, Biden says he has instructed the Treasury and State departments to report back in a month on how to allow remittance payments from Americans to Cubans without the Cuban authorities profiting.

A senior administration official also says Biden has been working on plans to provide wireless communications to Cubans and augment U.S. embassy staff in the country. 

The protests took place on July 11th and 12th as Cuba suffers from economic problems amid a record surge in coronavirus infections.  
President Miguel Diaz-Canel has blamed the unrest on the United States, which in recent years has tightened its decades-old embargo on the island. Diaz-Canel says the protester’s demands had been sincere but many had been manipulated by American disinformation campaigns on social media and financial support from Washington. 

Since the revolution, outbursts of public discontent have rarely been seen in Cuba, nevertheless, top U.S. politicians were very quick to seize on the rallies, praising them and pledging support.

The immediate reactions from American politicians give credibility to Diaz-Canel's statements that foreign forces have tried to amplify the demonstrations. 

The blockade and sanctions on Cuba appear to be a bipartisan issue in the United States, as both Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill have urged more sanctions. 

But are congress members actually concerned about the Cuban people or is this a more internal American political affair?

Florida's 1.5 million Cuban-Americans strongly voted for Republican Donald Trump in the 2020 presidential election. In order to secure the swing state in the 2024 election, winning back this Cuban-American support is crucial and of utmost importance for the Democratic Party.

If the U.S. cared for the Cuban people as it claims; it would not have placed the country under decades of blockade. Cuban officials say this has crippled the country’s economy.

The U.S. is also isolated on the international arena in its position towards Havana while Cuba has overwhelming backing from the international community. For nearly three decades, this has been reflected in the United Nations.

Ever since 1992, the UN General Assembly has annually approved a resolution demanding an end to the U.S. economic blockade. That means this year, the General Assembly called on the U.S. to end the Cuba embargo for the 29th consecutive time.

During this year’s meeting held at the UN headquarters in New York, 184 nations voted in favor of the resolution. Meanwhile, three countries - Colombia, Ukraine, and Brazil - abstained from the vote. All three are either heavily dependent on American military aid and/or diplomatic support.

While the Assembly’s vote sends a strong message in terms of how the world views America’s six-decades old blockade, only the U.S. Congress can lift the economic, commercial, and financial embargo. Despite the UN pressure, Washington has defied international calls and refused to do so.

Cuba says the blockade is a “massive, flagrant and unacceptable violation of the human rights of the Cuban people”

In 2018, a United Nations agency (the UN’s regional economic body for Latin America) called the embargo “unjust” and had cost the country’s economy $130 billion over nearly six decades.
Havana also says its "an economic war of extraterritorial scope against a small country already affected in the recent period by the economic crisis derived from the pandemic… like the virus, the blockade asphyxiates and kills, it must stop”

Despite all the pressure, Cuba is the first nation in Latin America and the Caribbean to successfully develop not only one but two Covid-19 vaccines. It has also managed to vaccinate over a quarter of the population with at least one dose. However, the U.S. sanctions means Cuba cannot even import the syringes it needs to further inoculate its population. The issue of vaccines was one of the main reasons Cubans took to the streets. 

One of the more ironic aspects of the short-lived rallies in Cuba is that U.S. allies in the region expressed their support for the protests. For example, the Colombian government voiced its “solidarity” with the people of Cuba. This is despite the fact that human rights organizations have strongly condemned the government of President Ivan Duque’s heavy-handed and deadly crackdown on protests in Colombia itself. 

These are far larger demonstrations than anything Cuba has seen. They began in November 2019 when hundreds of thousands took to the streets nationwide over a proposed tax hike. However, since then, the protests have continued and morphed into demands for basic rights and anger at corruption among the Colombian government.

Last month, an international human rights body had condemned Colombia for "excessive and disproportionate" use of force in response to the anti-government protests, in which dozens died. 
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights says Colombian security forces used "lethal force" in many situations.

Yet, there has been no such response from the United States towards Colombia as Washington’s response towards Cuba; Washington maintains very close ties with Bogota. 

In fact, according to the international rights organization, Amnesty International, American weapons and equipment are being misused by Colombian Security Forces to commit Human Rights Violations against the protesters. 

In essence, wherever a country shows independence, opposes American foreign policies or meddling in the region they are met with sanctions and other forms of pressure by Washington. 

Wherever a country cracks down on its people but allows America to set up military bases on its territory, supports America’s interference in neighboring states and follows Washington’s orders, those governments enjoy the freedom to kill their people and starve their people without having to worry about U.S. sanctions. 

As soon as Venezuela ended the era of American companies taking control of its mass oil resources, Caracas faced U.S. attempts at regime change. The late Hugo Chavez and his successor Nicolas Maduro have hit out at the American interference as well as sweeping sanctions America imposed, pledging to protect the country’s territorial integrity. 

In January 2019, Venezuela witnessed something quite unprecedented. A man, by the name of Juan Guaido, who many (if not anybody) had even heard of before, stood in the middle of a Venezuelan street, lifted his hand to the air and swore himself in as the President of the nation. In what is widely believed to have been an orchestrated move, former U.S. President Donald Trump immediately recognized Guaido as the President of Venezuela, despite the fact that he had not contested in any elections. Trump’s successor Biden says Washington will continue to recognize Guaido as the Venezuelan President, regardless of the fact that the man has lost whatever support he had among the Venezuelans themselves. That’s American democracy for you. 

The same applies elsewhere in the region such as Bolivia, where investigative research indicates Washington played a pivotal role in the coup that led to the ouster of President Evo Morales. He was replaced by Washington’s favorite Jeanine Anez, who pledged early elections but suffered an embarrassing defeat; While the party of former President Morales came out on top, and Morales’s short exile abroad came to an end. Anez and her former ministers are now facing wide-ranging charges from corruption to the slaughter of indigenous supporters of Morales who protested against his ouster. 

Elsewhere, the rulers in Chile or Brazil for instance enjoy U.S. support to crackdowns on demonstrations. In essence, the protests in Cuba did not last long, evidence points to heavy U.S. involvement in any areas of unrest. 

But that’s Washington’s double standards in Latin America and the Caribbean. 

U.S. allies enjoy sanctions immunity despite savagely suppressing protests because the reality is, America can’t invade the places it has already invaded.

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