US sanctions Cuban officials, military unit for protest crackdown

Washington (AFP) –


The United States imposed new sanctions on senior Cuban officials and a military unit on Friday, the latest in a series of actions in response to the crackdown on anti-government protestors on the island.

The penalties from the Treasury Department hit two Interior Ministry officials and the "red beret" military unit for their role in suppressing the recent rare demonstrations on the communist-ruled nation, where hundreds were jailed.

"Today's action shines a spotlight on additional perpetrators responsible for suppressing the Cuban people's calls for freedom and respect for human rights," said Andrea M Gacki, head of Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control.

It is the third round of US sanctions and President Joe Biden has warned additional punitive measures unless Havana made significant reforms.

Treasury previously sanctioned the Cuban police and pledged more action against those who "perpetuate human rights abuses against peaceful demonstrators."

The measures announced Friday target Romarico Vidal Sotomayor Garcia and Pedro Orlando Martinez Fernandez of the Cuban Interior Ministry, as well as the red beret unit of the Revolutionary Armed Forces (FAR).

Adding them to Treasury's sanctions blacklist freezes any property they have in the United States and bars US transactions with them.

Sotomayor is the chief of the Political Directorate of the ministry, which has deployed forces against protests that started last month, and Martinez is the chief of the Political Directorate of the National Revolutionary Police (PNR) which was previously sanctioned along with the FAR, Treasury said.

The security forces "have violently attacked and arrested protestors across Cuba," Treasury said in the statement.

Biden has said he is watching developments on the island closely, and Washington has called for the release of detained protestors, while trying to find ways to ensure internet access to the Cuban people.