Biden Hosts Cuban-American Leaders to Discuss Cuba Protests
(Bloomberg) -- President Joe Biden hosted a meeting at the White House on Friday with Cuban-American leaders to discuss the largest demonstrations in decades that erupted in Cuba earlier this month.
The meeting came the same day the administration announced sanctions against a Cuban police force and its leaders in response to violence against the demonstrators.
Biden told the group that additional penalties could be imposed. “There will be more unless there’s some drastic change in Cuba which I don’t anticipate,” he said. “We’re going to continue to add sanctions on individuals that carry out the regime’s abuses.”
The demonstrations pose a political challenge for Biden as Republicans claim that Democrats have been soft toward the communist regime. The issue has long resonated in the key battleground state of Florida because of its large Cuban-American population.
Human rights groups say 500 to 600 people have been jailed in Cuba after one of the largest protests in decades was followed by one of the broadest crackdowns in recent memory. The true figure may be even higher, since many families are afraid to come forward.
Those attending the White House meeting included Manny Diaz, chair of the Florida Democratic Party, Senator Bob Menendez, a Democrat from New Jersey, and activists such as Ana Sofia Pelaez, founder of the Miami Freedom Project.
Biden told them the administration is weighing how to enable remittances from Cubans in the U.S. to relatives back home. He said he had directed his administration to recommend how to do so “without the Cuban military taking a cut.”
The president added that his administration also is exploring ways to provide Cubans with internet access so that they can communicate and monitor how the government is treating protesters.
“The Cuban Americans are hurting,” Biden said of those who have been unable to contact relatives on the island during the crackdown. “They’re hurting.”
Last week, Biden leveled sanctions against the chief of Cuba’s military and its interior ministry, saying that those sanctions were “just the beginning.”
©2021 Bloomberg L.P.