The United States threatens to impose more sanctions on Cuba if the government suppresses free expression in protests

MiamiUSA he urged the president’s government on Friday Miguel Díaz-Canel Bermúdez to allow Cubans to express themselves freely in the street protests scheduled for next week and he warned that he could implement more sanctions if the protesters’ human rights are violated.

“We are attentive and once again ready to identify and promote the accountability of human rights violators if necessary,” he said. Emily Mendrala, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for the Office of Western Hemisphere Affairs. “Supporting the Cuban people is one of the priorities” of the president’s administration Joe bidenadded.

Mendrala’s statements in a telephone press conference take place a few days after the protests called for November 15 in different parts of Cuba, four months after some unusual marches in July in which thousands of people came out to express their fatigue due to material shortages and blackouts and some demanded a change of government.

The Cuban government, which has said it will not allow new marches, reacted almost immediately to the US statements.

Carlos Fernandez de Cossio, director general of the United States in the Cuban Foreign Ministry, considered Mendrala’s statements as “a mounted provocation against #Cuba”. “The Assistant Undersecretary says that they are” actively monitoring the situation “in our country, as if this were the State of Florida, which they do have the right to control … if they can,” said Fernández de Cossio on his Twitter account .

Human rights groups such as Human Rights Watch denounced the violation of the rights of hundreds of people in the July marches, the busiest on the island in decades. An unknown number of violent arrests and vandalism were reported, as well as one death.

Both on that occasion and now, the authorities in Havana said that it was a campaign promoted by their detractors from the United States to encourage a change of government. This week, the Cuban Foreign Minister, Bruno Rodríguez, said that Washington is behind this demonstration, financing it, guiding it and disseminating it as part of its policy in search of a change in the political model.

Mendrala dismissed those accusations and said her intention was to shift the spotlight.

“It is clear that the protests on Monday are … to demand changes, more respect for human rights, fundamental freedoms, basic needs,” Mendrala said in Spanish. “The accusation that the United States government is behind it is made to distract what is happening on the island. The focus should be on the Cuban people and their demands ”.

Cuba is in the midst of a strong economic crisis that worsened with the pandemic from COVID-19, decades of US economic sanctions and the difficulties of a financial reform that began in January to correct deviations from the double currency that existed until then.

Next Monday’s march is encouraged by Archipelago, an organization of young artists and activists, which said it will continue with its plans despite threats from Cuba’s Attorney General’s Office that the protesters will be charged with various crimes.

The organizers of the demonstration have refused to be financed or oriented from the United States and have stated that their objective is to carry out a peaceful march to demand human rights and the release of prisoners, especially those detained in the July 11 and 12 protests. .

Several Cuban exile groups in Miami have expressed their support for the protests.

When he took office from Biden in January, some progressive sectors hoped that he would resume the unfreezing policy with Havana that was promoted by also Democratic President Barack Obama in a government in which Biden himself served as vice president. Then the Republican administration of Donald Trump reversed that policy of relaxation and re-implemented economic sanctions and visa bans for Cuban officials.

Mendrala said that at this time Biden is willing to continue with the sanctions, explaining that there are people facing sentences of “15, 20 years, just for participating in protests” in July. He also clarified that at this time the United States and Cuba maintain bilateral diplomatic relations, both between officials of the island’s embassy in Cuba and in Washington’s in Havana.

“We talk about issues that are of mutual need,” said the official, without offering details.

In addition to sanctions and the policy of accountability, he said that Washington is also promoting humanitarian assistance on the island through the private sector and non-governmental organizations, supporting the Cuban population through the sending of remittances and communications through from Internet.

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