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Cuban Foreign Minister, Bruno Rodriguez, has blasted US visa restrictions imposed on five Cuban officials. Mr Rodriguez said: “These are individual sanctions based on mendacious and absolutely unfounded accusations.” The US Department of State (DoS) took steps to impose the sanctions amid alleged human rights infringements.
US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, recently announced: “The Department of State has taken steps to impose US visa restrictions on five Cuban officials pursuant to Presidential Proclamation 5377, which suspends non-immigrant entry into the United States of officers and employees of the Cuban government.”
Rodriguez took to Twitter to blast the sanctions, tweeting that the US government has ‘once again resorted to coercive measures against Cuba as an act of aggression. They do not bend us, they only provoke our most energetic rejection’.
The restrictions concern sentences against those involved in Cuban riots on July 11, 2021. Amid the riots, constitutional order and state stability were undermined, according to Washington.
Blinken said: “This announcement of US visa restrictions comes in response to the actions of Cuban government officials that deny Cubans their basic human rights and fundamental freedoms.”
Back in November and January 2021, other Cuban officials from the Ministry of the Interior and the Revolutionary Armed Forces were also subject to similar US sanctions associated with the July 11 events.
According to the Cuban Attorney General’s office, a total of 381 people have so far been sanctioned for crimes such as sedition, sabotage, robbery, violence, assault, contempt, and public disorder, following the events of July 11.
Hostile policy against Cuba
Despite the US and Cuba entering into immigration talks for the first time in four years recently, the Cuban Foreign Ministry considers the restrictions imposed on five of its officials to be a part of a hostile policy towards Cuba by the White House.
The Cuban government has accused the United States of inciting the most recent protests, which were the biggest seen in Cuba since the island’s 1959 revolution.
A DoS statement said: “The actions build upon previous efforts to promote accountability for Cuban officials who enable the government’s human rights abuses and repressive actions - including four Treasury Department sanctions actions enacted since July 11, and the Department’s November 30, 2021, and January 6, 2022 announcements of steps to impose visa restrictions.”
High-level immigration talks
Amid a record number of Cubans arriving at the US southern border with Mexico, Washington and Havana entered into tentative US visa talks for the first time in four years. Cuban officials visited Washington recently for the highest-level migration talks since Joe Biden took office.
US and Cuban officials had been meeting bi-annually since 1990 to discuss Cuba’s access to US visas. However, four years ago under the Trump administration, talks ceased and US immigration operations in Havana came to a grinding halt.
The talks in Washington became heated when Bruno Rodriguez urged the US to ‘fully comply’ with bilateral agreements between the two countries concerning US visas and immigration, while also calling on the US to stop what he described as ‘policies that prevent Cubans from traveling to the US and overseas’.
According to Cuba’s foreign ministry representatives, ‘US policies and sanctions serve to create ‘social and economic conditions that incentivize immigration to the US’.
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