WASHINGTON – The Biden administration on Friday announced a second round of sanctions in response to Cuba's recent crackdown on historic protests over shortages of food and medicine.
The administration targeted the national police force along with its top two officials as President Joe Biden met with Cuban American leaders and the top Democrats of the Senate and House committees that handle foreign affairs. The group included artists and activists as well as the chair of the Florida Democratic Party.
"Cuban Americans are hurting they're hurting, because their loved ones are suffering," Biden said. "We see your pain. We hear your voices. We hear the cries of freedom coming the island."
The action came about a week after Biden sanctioned a top Cuban military official and a unit of the government's repressive state security apparatus.
The president said more sanctions are coming, "unless there's some drastic change in Cuba, which I don't anticipate."
The White House is applying a federal human rights law that allows the president to impose economic sanctions and deny entry into the United States to any foreign person identified as engaging in human rights abuse or corruption.
But the sanctions are likely to have more of a messaging effect than a practical one on a government that has already been heavily sanctioned.
A senior administration official who briefed reporters on condition of anonymity said the White House wants to keep the spotlight on the situation so the Cuban people know the United States is supporting and defending them.
Thousands of Cubans took to the streets July 11 to protest food and medicine shortages, power outages and spiraling prices, prompting the largest protests seen on the communist island in three decades.
During his presidential campaign, Biden promised to restore the Obama-era thaw in U.S.-Cuba policy. But the unprecedented protests prompted a change in Biden's strategy and rhetoric on Cuba.
"We're holding the regime accountable," he said.
Biden said he's asked the State and Treasury departments to report back in a month on how to ease limits on remittances that Cuban Americans can send to their family members without the money ending up in Cuban government coffers.
The administration is also continuing to look for ways to restore internet access to Cubans after the government blocked sites used to organize the demonstrations.
Contributing; Deirdre Shesgreen
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Biden announces new round of Cuba sanctions after protest crackdowns