Alexandria, Virginia – The U.S. Department of State announced this weekend that the U.S. government had imposed economic sanctions and visa restrictions on a high-ranking Cuban intelligence official and his family for gross violations of fundamental rights in Cuba and Venezuela.
“This is a good development and builds upon President Trump’s reorientation of U.S. policy in the Western Hemisphere. For decades the Communist Party, as well as senior Cuban government officials, have been given free pass by U.S. policymakers and allies in the region,” said Jason Poblete of the Global Liberty Alliance. “Access to the U.S. market is a privilege, not a right. Anyone who engages or facilitates gross violations of fundamental rights should be held to account. This designation is part of that process,” added Poblete.
The State Department November 16 notice states Mr. Julio Cesar Gandarilla Bermejo, Cuba’s Minister of Cuba’s Ministry of the Interior (MININT), had been publicly designated under Section 7031(c) of the FY 2019 Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Appropriations Act, due to his involvement, by command responsibility, in gross violations of human rights. The designation can be done publicly or privately. In this case, it was done publicly, likely to send a message to senior Cuban regime officials.
Pursuant to U.S. laws, the Secretary of State can make these designations where the Secretary has credible information that foreign government officials have been involved in significant corruption or a gross violation of human rights (GVHR). When these individuals and their immediate family members are designated, they are deemed ineligible for entry into the United States. In addition to the public designation of Julio Cesar Gandarilla Bermejo, Secretary of State Pompeo publicly designated his children, Julio Cesar Gandarilla Sarmiento, and Alejandro Gandarilla Sarmiento.
The Global Liberty Alliance, in conjunction with several other human rights advocacy groups, urged the Trump administration earlier this year to publicly designate and impose economic sanctions on Cuba’s Office of Religious Affairs. You can read more about it here. In addition, for several years the Global Liberty Alliance has also recommended other designations of senior officials of the Communist Party and the Cuban government.
“Other governments in the Americas and beyond should support the Trump administration’s efforts to hold gross violators of fundamental rights to account. Spain, Canada, the European Union, indeed, any nation with close relations with Cuba should impose economic sanctions and deny visas to senior regime officials and their family members,” added Poblete.