Washington Sanctions Nine Cuban Officials for ‘Attempts to Silence’ US-Backed November 15 Protests

© AP Photo / Eliana AponteSpecial forces police patrol the streets as they drive past a large Cuban flag hanging from the facade of a building, in Havana, Cuba, Wednesday, July 21, 2021.
Special forces police patrol the streets as they drive past a large Cuban flag hanging from the facade of a building, in Havana, Cuba, Wednesday, July 21, 2021. - Sputnik International, 1920, 30.11.2021
The US State Department announced on Tuesday that new visa restrictions had been levied against nine Cuban officials in response to what it called “attempts to silence the voices of the Cuban people through repression and unjust detentions” after US-backed protests planned for November 15 failed to materialize.
According to a news release, the nine unnamed figures include high-ranking members of the Cuban ministries of the Interior and the Revolutionary Armed Forces.
“In the days preceding November 15, the Cuban regime bullied activists with government-sponsored mobs, confined journalists and opposition members to their homes, revoked journalists’ credentials to suppress freedom of the press, and arbitrarily detained Cuban citizens who attempted to peacefully protest,” US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in the release.

“The designated individuals today took action to deny Cubans their rights to free expression and peaceful assembly," the statement continues. "The rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly are universal.”

The November 15 demonstrations have been triumphed by US officials since they were first announced by an opposition group called Archipelago in mid-September. However, the Cuban government rejected the group’s demands to be allowed to hold the march, citing explicit US endorsement of the demonstration, which came just months after Washington endorsed other protests in Cuba and pledged to seek new ways to support Cuban dissidents.
According to People's Dispatch, the article that first announced the demonstration and which was cited by American figures like US Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) was published in Diario de Cuba, a site based in Miami, Florida, that in recent years has received substantial funding from the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), a front group for the CIA that by admission of its founding director was created to avoid the unsightly image of a US intelligence agency directly supporting opposition groups in other countries.
Investigations by MintPress News and The Grayzone revealed that US support for the Cuban dissident movement has been much more extensive, including financial backing of Cuban dissident figures like Yotuel, a hip-hop artist whose song “Patria y Vida” became a protest anthem over the summer, and for dozens of other groups and individuals in Cuba. After the July demonstrations, the White House indicated it was exploring new ways to support Cuban dissidents, such as giving them separate communications systems.
The protests in July, which were sparked by electrical brownouts created by a mixture of fuel shortages due to US sanctions and the redirecting of electricity to city hospitals that were at that time packed with Covid patients on ventilators, saw at their peak several hundred demonstrators parading through several Cuban cities. Larger demonstrations occurred among Cuban expatriates in southern Florida and Washington, DC, which attracted significant western media attention and were even used by some news agencies who claimed they were in Cuba.
However, unlike the protests in Miami and Washington, the demonstrations in Cuba were never explicitly anti-government or anti-socialist, and Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel soon met with the communities where the protests originated to sort out their concerns. Much larger pro-government demonstrations also occurred, which western media also attempted to portray as being anti-government.
In Washington on November 15, the anti-government demonstrators were eclipsed by Cuban government supporters, with just five showing up outside the US embassy where hundreds had demonstrated in July. One of the protesters told Sputnik it was “part two” of the July protests.
Things weren’t much different in Cuba, where even Archipelago founder Yunior García failed to show up for his claimed solo march in silence carrying a white rose, claiming he’d been prevented from leaving his house by government supporters. In Villa Clara, community members also protested outside the house of the local Archipelago leader.
Instead, November 15 was the day the Cuban school system reopened after a vast Covid vaccination campaign that quickly immunized the entire island, meaning a repeat of the summer outbreak is now almost impossible. Public vaccination also allowed the reopening of tourism, an important industry on the island that has greatly suffered since former US President Donald Trump imposed more than 240 new sanctions on Cuba targeting tourism, as well as its fuel and medical imports.
However, despite the warming of US-Cuban relations under his predecessor, Barack Obama, the US has maintained an embargo of Cuba since the 1959 revolution that overthrew the US-backed dictator, Fulgencio Batista, and ushered in the present socialist government. The sanctions have severely hampered Cuba's economic development and been widely denounced by most of the world's countries, who have repeatedly voted at the United Nations to condemn the embargo.
Two days after the failed protests, Garcia flew to Spain, claiming to have been driven into exile by the government.
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