The Biden administration will announce a series of sanctions against Cuban military and interior ministry officials for their role in the brutal suppression of protests by Cuban citizens the weekend of July 11.
The sanctions will be imposed under the global Magnitsky Act that allows the president to sanction individuals for human rights abuses. The act is named after Sergei Magnitsky, a Russian tax advisor who accused high-ranking officials in Vladimir Putin’s government of stealing large sums of money. He was tortured in prison and denied medical care, dying in 2009 shortly before his sentence was set to end.
The sanctions against Cuban officials include the freezing of any assets they hold in the United States and limiting their travel outside of Cuba.
Normally, it would take weeks of investigations to build a case against individual members of a government, but Biden ordered the State Department and Treasury Department to expedite their investigations.
The administration had been making its way toward implementing a new policy toward Cuba that would reverse many of the actions taken by President Donald Trump to restrict travel, trade and other forms of outreach. The Obama administration had expanded contacts when it reestablished diplomatic relations with Havana in 2015.
But the ongoing upheaval in Cuba, including unprecedented, islandwide demonstrations that resulted in hundreds of arrests, government attacks against protesters and attempts to shut down the Internet communications that enabled demonstrations to be organized, have set the Biden administration on a new timetable and pushed it away from anything that could be seen as a concession to the communist regime.
That Biden was even considering relaxing restrictions against these cutthroats was stupid. Fortunately for him, the Cuban government came to his rescue with a brutal crackdown on innocent protesters. Otherwise, Biden and his left-wing crackpots would have been exposed for the idiots they truly are.
Biden has also ordered efforts to mobilize the international community to condemn the regime’s actions. In the past, many countries willing to condemn human rights abuses have often stopped short at taking action against Cuba during decades of unrelenting U.S. pressure against the island’s leaders, from covert assassination attempts to a harsh economic embargo.
The Cuban government has charged the United States with fomenting the demonstrations, which erupted largely over economic hardships that the government blames on the embargo, and the protesters say is the result of corruption and strict communist control.
Biden claims the unrest was the result of Cubans not getting vaccinated, which may set a world record in misreading a situation.
A cautionary note is being sounded by some intelligence officials who think imposing sanctions against the wrong people may result in a replay of the outbreak of the “Havana Syndrome” — the illness that struck U.S. diplomats and their families in late 2016 in Havana. While the origins of the mysterious illness are still under investigation, a consensus is forming around the idea that the illnesses were the result of a deliberate attack.
“We are trying to do it in a way that we’re guaranteeing the safety of U.S. personnel,” a senior official said of the consulate deliberations.
Biden should shelve any plans he had to completely normalize relations with Cuba. It will enrage his radical left base of support, but it’s the only real leverage he has with the Cuban government.