US imposes sanctions on Cuba citing human rights violations


HAVANA (AP) – The US Treasury Department on Friday imposed sanctions on the Cuban Interior Ministry and its leader, accusing them of serious human rights violations.

The actions taken against the ministry and Brigadier General Lázaro Alberto Álvarez Casas include freezing any bank accounts they may have in the United States and blocking all business transactions with American entities.

The new sanctions, which are largely symbolic, come less than a week before the end of Donald Trump’s presidency, which has been characterized by strong hostility towards the Cuban government.

“The United States will continue to use all the tools at its disposal to deal with the dire human rights situation in Cuba and elsewhere in the world,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement.

The sanctions will be implemented under the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act and directed “against those responsible for serious human rights violations and corruption around the world,” the US government said in a press release.

The press release cites the case of Cuban dissident Jose Daniel Ferrer, held in a prison controlled by the Interior Ministry. Ferrer said he was beaten, tortured, held in solitary confinement and denied medical treatment at the prison.

The island’s Home Office oversees internal order in the Caribbean nation and includes police, firefighters, the prison system, and border guards. The Cuban government does not recognize the legal status of dissidents, whom it often accuses of being manipulated and financed by American interest groups wanting to discredit the socialist government.

This is not the first time that senior Cuban officials have been sanctioned by the United States. In September, the US State Department imposed sanctions on former President and current Cuban Communist Party leader Raúl Castro – a historic leader of the Cuban Revolution – and his four children.

Trump has promoted a policy of sanctions and restrictions on the island since taking office in 2017, reversing bilateral ties that began under President Barack Obama. The Trump administration has applied hundreds of measures and sanctions, some having only symbolic value, like those announced on Friday, and others having a strong impact on the island’s economy and its people.

President-elect Joe Biden, who will take office on Wednesday, said during his election campaign that he would restore at least some of Obama’s policies related to the Island. Biden advisers have said he plans to remove restrictions on remittances and travel, among other measures implemented by Trump.

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