WASHINGTON/HAVANA (Reuters) -The U.S. State Department announced visa restrictions on Saturday against 28 Cuban officials that it said were implicated in a crackdown on largely peaceful protests in Cuba nearly one year ago.
In a statement, the department said the restrictions would apply to high-ranking members of the Cuban Communist Party and officials who work in the country’s state communications and media sectors.
Cuba´s Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez blasted the U.S. measures and policy toward Cuba on social media shortly after the announcement, saying they violated international law.
“In view of failed attempt to provoke popular uprising in Cuba in 2021, the US government and its Secretary of State are seeking to discredit people’s victory over imperialist aggression,” Rodriguez said.
Cuba has said the U.S. Cold War-era economic embargo, combined with alleged efforts to foment protests on the island, are aimed at toppling the communist-run government.
Authorities on the Caribbean island sentenced hundreds to jail time on charges from public disorder to sedition since the protests last July 11, the largest anti-government protests in decades. Other dissidents have fled the island to exile.
The State Department accused the Cuban officials facing new visa restrictions of setting the policies it said led to violent and unjust detentions, sham trials and decades-long prison sentences following the widespread rallies.
Human Rights Watch said this week the government had “systematically” violated the rights of those who protested to deter future demonstrations. Several such groups have called on the governments of other Latin American and European nations to more closely scrutinize the aftermath of last year´s protests.
The State Department said Saturday the Cuban government also employed “internet throttling” to prevent people in Cuba from communicating with each other and block communications with the outside world.
“State media officials continue to engage in a campaign against jailed July 11, 2021, protesters and their family members who speak publicly about their loved ones’ cases,” the State Department said.
(Reporting by David Morgan in Washington and Dave Sherwood in Havana; editing by Diane Craft and Chris Reese)