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After weeks of calls for President Joe Biden to respond forcefully to a violent crackdown on ordinary Cubans by the country's regime, he issued new sanctions. But many Democrats and Republicans in the Cuban American community say more is needed.
Since protests erupted across the island nation two weeks ago, thousands of Cuban Americans have traveled to Washington, D.C., urging for a response to help.
Activists who gathered outside the White House on Friday told the Washington Examiner that sanctions targeting a government official and a regime's special force were not enough.
“It feels like a slap in the face,” said Gianni leva, accusing the Biden administration of placing sanctions on regime officials without U.S. assets or real power.
“They robbed us of our moment,” he said.
Biden on Thursday announced new sanctions on Cuba's defense minister and a special forces brigade in retaliation for their human rights abuses during recent protests.
“This is just the beginning — the United States will continue to sanction individuals responsible for [the] oppression of the Cuban people,” Biden said in a statement.
Cuban Americans say more action is needed.
“There should be an effort to build a coalition that will impose multilateral sanctions on the regime and its businesses,” Carlos Curbelo, a former Republican congressman from South Florida, told the Washington Examiner on Friday.
“Delivering internet access that the regime cannot block should be another major priority,” he added.
However, Curbelo said in a tweet that Biden’s actions Thursday were “a good start.”
Biden has said that the U.S. stands “firmly with the people of Cuba as they assert their universal rights" while his administration urges the release of individuals in regime custody.
"We continue to call for the swift release of peaceful protesters who have unjustly been detained," press secretary Jen Psaki said.
The demonstrations drew rare crowds on the island, igniting a government crackdown and prompting dozens of arrests. Several prominent activists are among the missing, a senior administration official said last week, adding that the protests took the regime by surprise.
The White House has heard from Cuban American activists, leaders, and celebrities, convened in Zoom calls, as it weighed its response.
Florida political operative Sasha Tirador, who was briefed by administration officials before Thursday’s announcement, voiced support for the move — after weeks of frustration.
"Biden, who I supported and voted for, has the opportunity to make history and do the right thing," Tirador told the Washington Examiner last week. "Otherwise, the Democrats can kiss the state of Florida goodbye for years to come."
Tirador said she was pleased with Biden’s response.
"This is the right thing," she said.
Biden continues to face persistent criticism for his response, which Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, a Republican, called toothless.
“Biden sanctioning an already sanctioned regime official in #Cuba is the kind of symbolic but meaningless measure we will continue to see as long as @potus is being advised by people who were drinking mojitos in Havana in 2015 to celebrate the Obama policy,” Rubio tweeted.
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Original Author: Katherine Doyle
Original Location: Cuban Americans dissatisfied by Biden sanctions announcement