Biden says 'just the beginning' on Cuba sanctions for crackdown on protests


FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Joe Biden speaks to reporters on the tarmac before boarding Air Force One to return to Washington from Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport in Hebron, Kentucky, U.S., July 21, 2021. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President Joe Biden said on Thursday that new U.S. sanctions on Cuba target those responsible for a crackdown on protesters and that they are only the first step in the American response.

"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," Biden said in a statement.

The U.S. Treasury announced sanctions on Cuba's defense minister and an interior ministry special forces unit over allegations of human rights abuses in a crackdown on anti-government protests this month.

"This is just the beginning – the United States will continue to sanction individuals responsible for oppression of the Cuban people," Biden said.

The United States is reviewing its remittance policy to "maximize support to the Cuban people," Biden said.

Washington is also committed to restaffing the U.S. Embassy in Havana to provide consular services and engage in civil society "while ensuring the safety of U.S. diplomats serving in Cuba," Biden added.

He said the United States is working with regional partners to pressure the Cuban government to release political prisoners and restore internet access.

(Reporting by Doina Chiacu; Editing by Tim Ahmann and Grant McCool)

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