President Biden announced new sanctions on a Cuban official and a government entity in response to anti-government protests that took place in Cuba on July 11th. Announcing the measure, Biden said it is “just the beginning.”
The sanctions targeted the Cuban defense minister and the National Special Brigade of Cuba’s Interior Ministry, which Biden accused of being behind a “crackdown” on Cuban protesters. “This is just the beginning — the United States will continue to sanction individuals responsible for oppression of the Cuban people,” Biden said.
In the wake of the protests, there are growing calls for Biden to end the decades-old trade embargo on Cuba or at least ease some sanctions. The trade embargo is one of the best examples of how US sanctions don’t achieve Washington’s stated foreign policy goals but instead hurts the civilian population of the target country. Over 60 years later, the same government is in power in Havana, and ordinary Cubans are suffering.
One way Biden could help the Cuban people directly is by lifting sanctions on remittances, which would make it easier for Cuban Americans to send money to their families. Last November, Western Union shut down its money-sending service to Cuba due to sanctions reimposed by the Trump administration. Biden said he is “reviewing” the remittance restrictions, and the White House said it set up a “working group” to review the policy.
Biden also said he is working to “restore internet access” in Cuba. In a statement on the sanctions, the White House said the Biden administration is “actively collaborating with the private sector to identify creative ways to ensure that the Cuban people have safe and secure access to the free flow of information on the Internet.”
Biden first floated the idea of “restoring internet access” last week after reports said the Cuban government restricted the internet during the protests. It’s not clear how this plan would work, and the Cuban government would likely be against the idea since the US has a history of using social media to stir unrest in the country.