Biden officials have imposed a ban on the departure of eight Cuban officials who say they have been involved in cracking down on opposition protesters and others who do not support it.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced visa bans on Thursday in a statement condemning the ongoing attacks on protesters that began last July and called for prison sentences handed down to those involved "harshly and unjustly."
The eight officials were not identified, but Blinken said they were all linked to the "arrests, convictions and arrests" of the protesters peacefully. The US says about 600 protesters across the Communist island have been arrested after the July 11 protests despite calls for their release.
"The United States has taken steps to enforce visa restrictions in response to the Cuban government's efforts to deprive Cubans of their freedom and rights by perpetuating threats, unjust detention and harsh sentences," Blinken said.
The travel ban is a recent crackdown on Cuba by Biden officials, which has largely followed the policies of former President Donald Trump over the island. At the end of November, Blinken announced a ban on the departure of nine Cuban officials with similar actions against protesters.
"The United States continues to use all necessary communication and economic tools to push for the release of political prisoners and to support the Cuban people's call for greater freedom and accountability," Blinken said.
Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez has condemned the travel ban. "The US government is continuing its evil practice of trying to force its will on other governments through one-sided measures," he said in a statement. Rodriguez added
In July, thousands of Cubans took to the streets of cities across the island to protest the lack of supplies and to cut off electricity, the largest protests against Communist rule in recent history. Some called for a change in government.
Cuban officials say the United States is behind the protests.
Biden officials have spoken out in support of Cuban activists and praised anti-government protests.
Shortly after the July protests, the US announced new sanctions against Cuban national police and two of its top officials.