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Treasury imposes additional sanctions on Cuba over allegations of 'serious human rights abuse'

Treasury imposes additional sanctions on Cuba over allegations of 'serious human rights abuse'
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The Treasury Department on Friday announced sanctions on Cuba’s Ministry of Interior and its director due to allegations of “serious human rights abuse,” the latest in a string of hard-line actions aimed at the Caribbean nation in the final days of the Trump administration. 

The Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced in a press release that it was sanctioning Cuba’s interior ministry, along with its minister, Lazaro Alberto Álvarez Casas, in pursuance of President TrumpDonald TrumpTrump State Department appointee arrested in connection with Capitol riot Intelligence community investigating links between lawmakers, Capitol rioters Michelle Obama slams 'partisan actions' to 'curtail access to ballot box' MORE’s December 2017 executive order targeting “perpetrators of serious human rights abuse and corruption around the world.” 

In a news release, Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven MnuchinBiden cautious in making Trump tax returns decision Biden brings back bipartisan meetings at the White House On The Money: Schumer urges Democrats to stick together on .9T bill | Collins rules out GOP support for Biden relief plan | Powell fights inflation fears MORE said, “The Cuban regime has a long history of human rights abuse.” 

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“The United States will continue to use all the tools at its disposal to address the dire human rights situation in Cuba and elsewhere around the world,” he said.

The Treasury argues in its release that Cuba’s interior ministry held Cuban dissident Jose Daniel Ferrer in September 2019, when he was allegedly “beaten, tortured, and held in isolation,” and “received no medical attention while in prison.”

Álvarez Casas served as the vice minister of the interior department until November 2020, when he was promoted to minister of the interior. 

Friday’s sanctions officially label Cuba’s ministry department as “being a foreign person who is responsible for or complicit in, or having directly or indirectly engaged in, serious human rights abuse,” with Álvarez Casas labeled “a foreign person who is the leader or official,” of the department that engaged in such abuse. 

The Friday sanctions prohibit any transactions between the U.S. or U.S. actors and the Cuban actors that have been sanctioned, according to the Treasury. 

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The move by the treasury comes just days after the State Department officially relisted Cuba as a "state sponsor of terrorism," reversing a decision made by the Obama administration in 2015 as part of an effort to improve relations with the country.

"The Trump Administration has been focused from the start on denying the Castro regime the resources it uses to oppress its people at home, and countering its malign interference in Venezuela and the rest of the Western Hemisphere," Secretary of State Mike PompeoMike PompeoPompeo not ruling out 2024 White House bid Houthis: US sanctions prolonging war in Yemen China plays the Trump card, but Biden is not buying it MORE said in a statement Monday, referring to Raúl Castro. "With this action, we will once again hold Cuba’s government accountable and send a clear message: the Castro regime must end its support for international terrorism and subversion of U.S. justice."

The terrorism list designation subjects Havana to new sanctions, including restrictions on U.S. foreign assistance and bans on defense exports and sales.

Experts have said that the move to redesignate Cuba as a state sponsor of terrorism, grouping it with other countries like Syria, Iran and North Korea, will likely complicate efforts by President-elect Joe BidenJoe BidenTrump State Department appointee arrested in connection with Capitol riot FireEye finds evidence Chinese hackers exploited Microsoft email app flaw since January Biden officials to travel to border amid influx of young migrants MORE to reimplement Obama-era policies upon taking office next week. 

Biden’s policy is likely to be further complicated by Trump’s heavy support among Cuban American voters, coming just two months after Biden lost to Trump in the state of Florida, which has a large Latino population and where Republicans have sought to paint Democrats as socialists.