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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

US Considering Ways to Aid Cubans, Hold Government Accountable

By VOA News July 20, 2021

The White House said Tuesday it is exploring ways the United States can aid the people of Cuba engaged in anti-government protests and also hold the Cuban government accountable for repressing freedom in the island nation.

The U.S. is working to identify Cuban officials responsible for attacks on peaceful protesters, White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters.

At the same time, she said the U.S. is looking to increase access to the internet in Cuba, boost humanitarian assistance and devise a workable remittance system for Cuban expatriates to send money to their relatives in Cuba without the government pilfering it.

Psaki said the U.S. Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control "will continue to explore designated Cuban officials responsible for … human rights violations against peaceful protesters."

In addition, she said the government is forming "a remittance working group to identify the most effective way to get remittances directly into the hands of the Cuban people."

Psaki said the U.S. has long been concerned about Havana stealing money intended for its citizens.

"That's certainly something that we're mindful of," she said. "That will be a point of discussion in these working groups" considering a response to unrest in Cuba.

In a statement, Senator Bob Menendez, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, praised the Biden administration's efforts to assist the Cuban people.

"The Cuban people are risking it all by taking to the streets to call for an end to tyranny, and it is more important than ever that the international community listen to their stories, feel the despair and fear with which they live, and stand up with and for them," Menendez said.

"I commend President Biden's showing of support for Cubans at this critical moment and his willingness to listen to directly impacted people on and off the island," he said.

The U.S. is also considering expanding U.S. Embassy staff in Havana.

The State Department reduced the number of staff at the embassy by more than half in 2017 after more than 40 U.S. diplomats serving in Cuba said they suffered persistent ear pain, headaches, and problems with memory, concentration, balance and sleeping in 2016. The administration of former President Donald Trump said the injuries resulted from what it termed a "sonic attack."

The Biden administration has not announced any intended actions, but it has been conducting an ongoing review of U.S.-Cuba policies. The White House said Monday that several officials met with a group of Cuban American leaders "to listen to their policy recommendations and concerns."

A White House statement stressed that addressing the current situation in Cuba "is a top priority."

State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters Monday that the administration is concerned about human rights, democracy and civil rights.

"That's precisely what you're seeing and what we have said in the mechanisms of support over the years that the United States has provided to the Cuban people. And it is precisely what we mean when we say that we will consider additional forms of support, including any humanitarian support for the Cuban people," Price said.

Some information for this report came from The Associated Press and Reuters.

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