President Biden announces new sanctions on Cuba after crackdown on anti-government protesters

WASHINGTON (Independent): US President Joe Biden has announced a plan to sanction top Cuban officials while hammering the government’s treatment of what it called “political prisoners”.

A statement from the president on Thursday condemned the Cuban government’s response to recent unrest in the country, where in recent weeks both pro- and anti-government demonstrators have rallied in the streets.

His statement came shortly after White House press secretary Jen Psaki confirmed that the State Department and Treasury Department would put out specific information regarding the new sanctions later on Thursday afternoon.

The president added in his statement that the US was working to restore internet access ⁠— which is limited on the island mostly to cell phones ⁠— and provide consular services to Cubans at the US embassy in Havana.

“We are working with civil society organisations and the private sector to provide internet access to the Cuban people that circumvents the regime’s censorship efforts”, said the president.

Cuba’s government and the US have offered opposing explanations for the economic troubles of the country cited by some anti-government demonstrators, which is facing food shortages and other issues exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic. Cuban officials say the problems are a result of the ongoing US trade embargo, which has lasted for decades, while US leaders maintain that the communist government’s officials enrich themselves at the expense of their citizens.

The country developed its own vaccine for Covid-19, and has fully vaccinated just over 18 per cent of its population. It is the only country in Central America to not join the COVAX initiative, preventing it from receiving vaccines donated by the US and other wealthier nations.