The U.S. President stated after sanctions were announced against an official and an entity of the Castro dictatorship.
Joe Biden showed his support for the Cuban people on Thursday and promised Internet access to the island. What the U.S. president said comes after the White House announced sanctions against the Minister of the Revolutionary Armed Forces (FAR) of Cuba, Álvaro López-Miera, and an elite military unit popularly known as "black wasps" or "black berets" for the repression in the massive protests of July 11.
"This is just the beginning," Biden said about the measures and assured that Washington would continue to sanction those responsible for the oppression of the Cuban people.
The Democratic president said the United States condemns the large-scale arrests and wrongful trials in Cuba.
The U.S. president added that he would work with his partners to pressure the Cuban dictatorship to release political prisoners, restore internet access and allow Cubans to enjoy their fundamental rights.
Regarding the sanctions, he added that they target those in Cuba responsible for the repression against protesters.
It marks the Biden administration's first concrete steps for putting pressure on the Cuban dictatorship, at a time when Washington is being called upon by U.S. lawmakers and the Cuban-American community to show greater support for protesters.
The new pace of the Administration's new sanctions indicates that Biden's predecessor, Donald Trump, is unlikely to soften U.S. views on Cuba, following the historic Obama era with Havana.
Thousands of Cubans held protests a week ago to demonstrate against an economic crisis that has led to shortages of essential goods and power outages. They also protest the government's handling of the coronavirus pandemic and restrictions on civil liberties. Hundreds of activists were arrested.
During his campaign, Biden vowed to reject some of Trump's policies on Cuba. Still, Thursday's announcement suggests little appetite for getting closer to the communist-ruled island again.
At the same time, the Biden administration is looking for ways to address the plight of the Cuban people.
The White House said Tuesday that Biden would form a task force to analyze remittances to Cuba in the wake of protests on the island. The goal is to determine how Cuban Americans can send money to families on the island, keeping funds away from the Cuban dictatorship.
Trump had imposed strict restrictions on the flow of remittances, which are believed to have amounted to several billion dollars annually.
The United States is also working with the private sector and Congress to find ways to make the Internet more accessible to the Cuban people, State Department spokesman Ned Price said Tuesday.
The full statement:
I unequivocally condemn the mass arrests and sham trials that are unjustly condemning to prison those who dared to speak out to intimidate and threaten the Cuban people into silence. The Cuban people have the same right to freedom of expression and a peaceful assembly as everyone else. The United States stands with the brave Cubans who have taken to the streets to oppose 62 years of oppression under a coalition government.
Today, my Administration is imposing new sanctions on the elements of the Cuban regime responsible for this repression - the head of the Cuban military and the division of the Cuban Ministry of the Interior that promoted the repression - to hold them accountable for their actions. But, this is just the beginning: the United States will continue to punish those responsible for the oppression of the Cuban people.
As we hold the Cuban regime to account, our support for the Cuban people is unwavering. We make sure that Cuba is a key partner in our efforts to provide relief to those affected on the American island. We are working with civil society organizations and the private sector to provide the Cuban people with access to the Internet, despite government censorship efforts. We are reviewing our remittance policy to determine how we can best support the Cuban people. And we have pledged to replenish our embassy staff in Havana to provide consular services to Cubans and improve our capacity to engage with civil society while ensuring the safety of U.S. diplomats serving in Cuba.
Promoting human dignity and freedom is one of my Administration's top priorities. We will work closely with our partners throughout the region, including the Organization of American States, to pressure the regime to release unjustly detained political prisoners immediately, restore Internet access and allow the Cuban people to enjoy their fundamental rights.