The U.S. Treasury Department announced Thursday that the United States imposed new sanctions on Cuban officials accused of “serious human rights abuse and corruption” amid ongoing protests calling for economic reform and COVID-19 relief.

The sanctions target Cuba’s Interior Ministry and Alvaro Lopez Miera, head of Cuba’s Ministry of the Revolutionary Armed Forces. The financial penalties come under the Global Magnitsky Act, which seek to fight human rights abuses. The Treasury Department said Lopez Miera and the MINFAR “have attacked protesters and arrested or disappeared over 100 protesters in an attempt to suppress those protests.”

The anti-government protests are the largest seen in decades in the communist country, as people took to the streets earlier this month in the capital of Havana and other locations as Cuba continued to suffer from a deepening economic crisis and the pandemic.

President Joe Biden released a statement Thursday said the Cuban people have the right to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, just as Americans do: “I unequivocally condemn the mass detentions and sham trials that are unjustly sentencing to prison those who dared to speak out in an effort to intimidate and threaten the Cuban people into silence,” he said.

Editorial credit: Eli Wilson /

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