US designates Cuban Interior Ministry over human rights abuse


Washington, Jan 16 (IANS): The US has designated the Cuban Ministry of Interior and its head over allegations of human rights abuse, just days after Washington added Havana to the list of "State Sponsor of Terrorism".

In a statement on Friday, the Treasury Department said that its Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) designated the Ministry and Interior Minister Lazaro Alberto Alvarez Casas, "for serious human rights abuse".

According to OFAC, the Ministry is "responsible for Cuba's internal security, to include controlling Cuba's police, internal security forces, and the country's prison system", while its "specialized units are responsible for monitoring political activity, and Cuba's police support these security units by arresting persons of interest".

"The Cuban regime has a long history of human rights abuse," Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin was quoted as saying in the statement.

"The US will continue to use all the tools at its disposal to address the dire human rights situation in Cuba and elsewhere around the world," he added.

According to the statement, all property and interests of the property of the designated individual and entity in the US have been blocked, and Americans are generally prohibited from transactions with them.

Friday's move came after the administration of outgoing President Donald Trump on January 11 added Cuba to the list of "State Sponsor of Terrorism" for "repeatedly providing support for acts of international terrorism in granting safe harbour to terrorists".

The designation would result in sanctions that penalise persons and countries engaging in certain trade with Cuba; restricts US foreign assistance; ban defence exports and sales; and impose certain controls on exports of dual-use items.

Cuba had been placed on the list of state sponsors of terrorism in 1982.

In March 2016, Barack Obama became the first sitting US President to visit Cuba since 1928 following the warming of bilateral relations that began in December 2014, ending a 54-year stretch of hostility.

But tensions between Cuba and the US worsened after Trump took office in 2014.

The Trump administration has increased the trade embargo, first imposed in 1962, which has banned American flights to Cuban cities except Havana; barred cruise ships and yachts from visiting the island; and limited remittances Cuban-Americans send to their families on the island.

Washington also re-instated Cuba into a list of countries that "do not fully cooperate with the US counter-terrorism efforts".

The decision prohibits the sale or license for the export of defence articles and services to the nations contained in the blacklist.

  

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