Monday, August 2, 2021

Press Briefings from State Department and White House Post July 11th

Is Secretary Blinken Acknowledging Cuba Positively?

March 2, 2022

Matt Lee, AP:  I’m wondering if you have any thoughts about the abstentions, particularly from Latin America: Cuba, Nicaragua, Venezuela, who stayed out.  These are countries that are no stranger to larger powers, who might – shall go unnamed, getting involved in their internal politics.  And I’m wondering if that says anything to you....

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Matt, first of all, to put the vote in the UN in perspective, it is both overwhelming and, I would even say, historic.  Go back to 2014, when the General Assembly pronounced itself on Russia’s initial aggression against Ukraine.  The votes in favor of that resolution were 100.  Then go to the horrific actions that the Assad regime took in Aleppo.  The vote there was 120 in favor of a resolution condemning the actions of the Assad regime.  Today 141 votes.  That speaks powerfully and eloquently about the overwhelming majority of the world and its views about what Russia is doing in Ukraine.

I’m not going to parse the individual votes.  I think in some cases an abstention actually speaks loudly itself as opposed to a no vote, so I think you have to look at some of the individual countries, assess their relationship with Russia, and look at how they voted in that context.

Secretary Antony J. Blinken At a Press Availability - United States Department of State


Word Salad About Remittances

State Department Press Briefing  2/4/22

QUESTION: Yeah, thank you. Thank you for having me. Yesterday, secretary (inaudible) announced that the United States is considering reestablishing remittances to Cuba. My question is: Does the Biden administration really believe that it would be helping to the Cuban people and not the Miguel Diaz-Canel government? Can you tell us about the measures that the Washington will take to restore remittance to Cuba? Thank you.

MS PORTER: Thanks for your question, Luis. So broadly speaking, our policy towards Cuba focuses first and foremost for the support of the Cuban people, and that would include their political and economic well-being, and that would also include human rights. So that means that we’re committed to promoting accountability for Cuban Government officials involved in any human rights abuses.

I’d also say that, following the July 2021 protests, that the Biden-Harris administration created a remittance working group to explore options to facilitate remittances to Cuba that would go to benefit the Cuban people, and that would allow Cuban families to support one another, and also minimize or eliminate benefits to the – both the Cuban regime and its military.
Also, in August of 2021, the remittance working group shared its analysis, including additional options, with other members of the administration, and the administration continues to consider these options, as well as explore innovative solutions, and that also includes digital payments as a part of these solutions. Outside of that, we don’t have a specific timetable to share at this time.


QUESTION: Hi, and happy Friday. I just wanted to ask you on Iran if you have any news on when Special Envoy Malley is going back to Vienna for the resumption of the talks, if he’s going today as the – it was first said that the talks would resume this week, or if it’s delayed.
And just – and then just a quick follow-up on Cuba, if you can just give us a little bit of details about what is the analysis and the options that the remittance working group provided to the administration. Thank you.

MS PORTER: Hi, Francesco. To answer your first question, Special Envoy Malley is currently in Washington. Other than that, we don’t have anything to announce for anticipated travel. We’d certainly welcome you to go to the EU as the JCPOA coordinator.

And on Cuba, I don’t have any other specifics or anything precise to give you at this point, outside of what we’ve shared before, that the administration, of course, continues to explore innovative options for Cuba. And, of course, that would include digital payments. And the working group continues to facilitate ways that would be beneficial to the people of Cuba, but at this time we don’t, again, have any specific timetables or anything precise to share, beyond that.

Trials and Prisoners

State Department Press Briefing    February 1, 2022

QUESTION: Ned, on Cuba, any comment on the recent mass trials of Cubans that participated in the protests for political reform last year? Almost 800 people has been charged with more than 170 already convicted, some of them facing jails or prisons. Is there a space for new sanctions? Can we expect, like, a response for the U.S. Government, as you have praised the demonstrators last year?

MR PRICE: Well, it is true that ever since the protests that began on July 11th of last year, we have seen the Cuban Government respond with their trademark brand of repression of their own citizens. We believe – and you’ve heard from us – that the Cuban people, just like people around the world, have every right to continue to voice their desire for fundamental freedoms, and we condemn the failures of the Cuban Government to protect those universal rights and the failure of the Cuban Government to meet the most basic needs of the people. Again, rather than focusing on its own provision of services, its own governance, the protection of rights within Cuban society, the Cuban regime has responded with repression. And it was just last month that the so-called Damas de Blanco were imprisoned for doing nothing more than exercising what should be a universal right.

We support the rights of Cubans and people everywhere to exercise their freedom of expression and peaceful assembly. We call on the Cuban Government to respect these rights and to release those unjustly detained for peacefully protesting. No one should face prosecution, no one should face imprisonment, for exercising a right that is as universal in Cuba as it would be anywhere else.

QUESTION: But is the U.S. Government think about new sanction, or is there a space for new sanction, given the big scope of they are already in place – that are already in place?

MR PRICE: Well, ever since July 11th of last year, we have enacted a series of measures to promote accountability against those individuals and entities within the Cuban Government who are responsible for this repression, who are responsible for the violent crackdowns on peaceful protesters last summer and in the ensuing weeks. So we will continue to look to ways to promote accountability and to uphold and protect and promote what should be the universal rights of the Cuban people.


Visa Restrictions Against Cuban Officials



JANUARY 6, 2022

Due to harsh and unjust sentences handed down to peaceful protesters, the Department of State today took steps to impose visa restrictions on eight Cuban officials implicated in attempts to silence the voices of the Cuban people through repression, unjust detentions, and harsh prison sentences.

The Department implemented these targeted actions pursuant to Presidential Proclamation 5377, which suspends nonimmigrant entry into the United States of officers and employees of the Cuban government. These eight individuals include Cuban officials connected to the detention, sentencing, and imprisonment of peaceful July 11 protesters. The United States took steps to enforce visa restrictions in response to Cuban government attempts to deny Cubans their freedom and rights through continued intimidation tactics, unjust imprisonment, and severe sentences.

Approximately 600 protesters across the island remain jailed after the July 11 protests, some with worsening health conditions and no access to proper food, medicine, or calls to their loved ones.

These visa restrictions reinforce the U.S. commitment to supporting the Cuban people and promoting accountability for Cuban officials who enable the regime’s affront to democracy and human rights. These actions magnify the impact of four Treasury Department sanctions enacted since July 11 and the Department’s November 30 announcement of visa restrictions on nine Cuban officials connected to repression of November 15 activists. The United States continues to use all appropriate diplomatic and economic tools to push for the release of political prisoners and to support the Cuban people’s call for greater freedom and accountability.


Statement by National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan 

on Cuba’s November 15 Protests

NOVEMBER 15, 2021

This July, the world watched as Cubans bravely took to the streets in historic protests, asserting their rights to freedom of expression and freedom of peaceful assembly.  In advance of peaceful demonstrations planned for today, the Cuban regime predictably deployed a set piece of harsh prison sentences, sporadic arrests, intimidation tactics, and acts of repudiation all in an attempt to silence the voice of Cuban people as they clamor for change, demand an end to political violence, and implore the regime to liberate the hundreds of peaceful protestors detained after July 11 just for wanting a greater say in the future of their country.  

By its actions, the Cuban regime failed to respect the civil and political rights enumerated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and international human rights treaties ratified by Cuba, including the right to peaceful assembly and association, the right to freedom of opinion and expression, and freedom from arbitrary arrest, detention, or exile. There is no denying the regime’s brutal crackdown in response to July 11, which were broadcast in real time for the world to see.

The United States is committed to supporting the agency of the Cuban people as they seek to promote democratic change as an inclusive and broad-based social movement. We urge the Cuban regime to refrain from violence against peaceful protestors and to immediately release all those unjustly detained, and we call on the international community to voice their support for the Cuban people. 

The Cuban regime should take this opportunity to listen to their people: to hear their frustrations and look for ways to work together to better serve the needs and ambitions of all Cubans.  The United States will not waver in its support of Cubans’ pursuit of fundamental freedoms and a democratic and prosperous society.

In effect, this signals US recommitment to direct intervention for regime change, reversing the position of the Obama Administration. 


Ned Price, State Department Press Briefing   OCTOBER 26, 2021

Ducking the question on role of US in November 15th Demonstrations



QUESTION: President Diaz-Canel has said that the U.S. is fomenting the protests by dissidents (inaudible) for mid-November. Diaz-Canel said this behavior by the U.S. is not new. What’s your comment on it, and how is it affecting the review of the Cuba policy by the Biden administration?

MR PRICE: Look, the Cuban people’s protests, peaceful protests on and after July 11th and with the upcoming plans for November 15th, the Cuban people are voicing their concerns about freedom, about democracy, and the failures of that very regime, the Cuban regime, to meet their own needs, the needs of the Cuban people. We support, as we have said, the rights of the Cuban people and people everywhere to exercise their freedoms of expression, their ability to assemble peacefully. We call on the Cuban Government to respect these rights and to see this not as an attack but as an opportunity to listen, to listen to their own people and to do what is right for Cubans and for Cuba.

The Cuban regime is failing to meet the people’s most basic needs. That includes food. That includes medicine. Now is a chance to listen to the Cuban people and to make a positive change. Again, we commend the people of Cuba for peacefully showing the strength of their will and the power of their voice, which, after the protest of July 11th, the government has consistently attempted to silence, including through violent oppression, including through unjust detentions of hundreds of protesters, including through the detention of journalists, of activists, internet censorship, and other tactics that we reject. We stand with every Cuban seeking a government that respects their human rights and fundamental freedoms.

QUESTION: So the U.S. is not behind – is not, like, supporting these kind of protests?

MR PRICE: We stand with the right of the Cuban people and the right of people everywhere to assemble peacefully, to have their voices heard. But what we have seen in Cuba since July 11th, what I suspect we will see mid-next month in Cuba, is a demonstration not of the desires of the United States Government. What we have seen, what we will say – what we will see is a manifestation of the unmet needs, of the unmet aspirations of the Cuban people, and the Cuban people’s clear attribution of responsibility for those unmet needs and unmet aspirations to the Cuban Government.

The U.S. Government Supports the Cuban People’s Ability to Demonstrate



OCTOBER 16, 2021

The United States strongly condemns the Cuban regime’s decision to deny permission for peaceful protests to take place on November 15. By refusing to allow these demonstrations, the Cuban regime clearly demonstrates that it is unwilling to honor or uphold the human rights and fundamental freedoms of Cubans.

The Cuban regime’s denial comes after it announced its intent to position troops on the Cuban streets from November 18-20 to intimidate Cubans and quash the previously-scheduled, nationwide peaceful protests. These latest moves add to the repressive response to the July 11protests that people in Cuba and around the world witnessed.

The United States remains deeply committed to the Cuban people, their right to assemble peacefully and express themselves, and their struggle to freely choose their leadership and their future.

State Department Press Briefing   October 12, 2021 

November 15, Humanitarian Flights, Remittances,

QUESTION: Yeah. I wanted to ask you about the Cuba’s Government decision to ban a protest that was planned for November 15th, claiming that the organizers are backed by the U.S. to overthrow the regime. Do you have any comment on that, any response?

MR PRICE: Well, let me make one thing very clear at the outset. What happened in July, what transpired in the days and the weeks after that, was not about the United States. It was about the conduct of the Cuban regime, the unmet aspirations of the Cuban people for freedom, for dignity, for prosperity, the elements that they have been denied by this regime for far too long, since 1959.

We – the world watched. The United States watched as Cuban authorities arrest and beat peaceful protestors, journalists, independent voices in mid-July, starting on July 11th. There have been many arbitrarily detained; many are missing. We know that the government has conducted secret summary trials of those arrested. And we join their families, we join Cuba’s human rights defenders, people around the world in calling for the immediate release of all those detained – all those who are detained or missing merely for exercising their fundamental human rights. It’s the freedom of expression, it is the freedom to assemble peacefully that the Cuban Government has denied to its people.

The violence that we’ve seen, the detention that we’ve seen, the crackdowns that we’ve seen, now the prohibitions on peaceful protests that we’ve seen – all of this remind us that it is the Cuban people who are paying dearly in their fight for freedom, their fight for dignity. We call for their release. We call for the government in Havana to respect the fundamental freedoms and the fundamental rights of the Cuban people.


QUESTION: The humanitarian flights that – from the U.S. to Cuba that the State Department authorized some months ago, did those ever get started? If not, why not? And if so, how many have taken place?

And then is there any update on the remittance working group now that it’s been over a month and a half since they submitted their recommendations to the White House? Thanks.

MR PRICE: Sure. So I will take the question on humanitarian flights. I just don’t have an update on that in front of me.

As you know, the remittance working group did provide its report to the President some number of weeks ago. It is also an issue that is not uncomplicated in terms of what we need to sort through. At the end of the day, we have a profound interest in supporting the humanitarian needs of the Cuban people, but we also have the imperative of seeing to it that additional funds do not flow into the coffers of the regime.

So we’re taking a close look. The administration is taking a close look at that recommendation – at those recommendations, I should say – to determine how best we can support the Cuban people in the form of remittances while also not running afoul of that other imperative on our part.

White House Press Briefing    September 30, 2021

Q On one other separate topic: There have been a number of issues in the last, say, several weeks in which advocates -- allies of the President are describing him as “Trump-like.” Most -- less in terms of his personality and sort of tone and tenor, obviously, but in terms of policy. Even today, a representative of the Cuban government describing the frustration with the President continuing to maintain Trump-era policies vis-à-vis Cuba.
Does the -- what’s the President’s reaction? And does he accept that in some areas of policy he is, you know, in agreement with the former President?


Q Thanks, Jen. Just to follow up on Mike's question on what the Cuban foreign minister said. Just to be specific, he said, "It's a pity that President Biden couldn't implement his own policy toward Cuba." And I just wondered if you had a specific response.

MS. PSAKI: I don't. 

Department Press Briefing – August 18, 2021


AUGUST 18, 2021

Havana Syndrome in Berlin

QUESTION: Can you – one non-Afghan question, please? I – thank you. I’m seeing reports that there are some cases of Havana – so-called Havana Syndrome in Berlin, at the embassy in Berlin. Can you speak to that? Are you aware of it? What is the State Department doing to protect its staff?

MR PRICE: So, I am – I have seen these reports, of course. This is something that we vigorously investigate, the so-called anomalous health incidents or unexplained health incidents in coordination with our partners across the government. Any employees who have reported a possible unexplained health incident, they have received immediate and appropriate attention and care.

These health incidents I can tell you have been a top priority for Secretary Blinken. I think I mentioned this before, but he proactively requested two sets of briefings during the transition. This was one of them, because even before he was Secretary of State, he wanted to know precisely what we knew, what this department knew at the time, and what we were doing to respond to this.

He has set clear goals for what we call here the Health Incident Response Task Force to – number one, to strengthen the communication with our workforce, of course, to provide care for affected employees and their family members, and to do what we can to protect against these incidents working together with the interagency, and, of course, to find the cause of what has been afflicting these members of our team. He noted to the workforce – I guess it was a couple weeks ago now – that there is nothing that we take more seriously than the health of our workforce.

And that’s why there is a major effort underway in this department, there is a major effort underway across the interagency to determine the cause and to, of course, provide the level of care, the level of communication, the level of feedback that our employees need and deserve. This is a priority. Ambassador Spratlen, as you know, the – Secretary Blinken named her as the head of the task force. She works very closely with the Deputy Secretary for Management and Resources Brian McKeon on this. They are working very closely in turn with Secretary Blinken. We’ll continue to do that. We’ll continue to work with our interagency partners to ensure that our employees, both those who have been affected by this have what they need, and those who are serving around the world, that we’re doing everything we can to ensure their safety.


QUESTION: So, can you confirm the cases in Berlin or —

MR PRICE: We don’t speak to cases anywhere.


Joint Statement on Venezuela Negotiations

AUGUST 14, 2021

The following statement was released by Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken, the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell, and Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs Marc Garneau.

We welcome the announcement that Venezuelan-led, comprehensive negotiations will soon begin in Mexico City, Mexico. We hope this process will lead to the restoration of the country’s democratic institutions and allow for all Venezuelans to express themselves politically through free and fair local, parliamentary, and presidential elections. We urge all parties to engage in good faith to reach enduring agreements that lead to a comprehensive solution to the Venezuelan crisis. The forces of the democratic opposition have worked hard to build a Unitary Platform, and we recognize the need for such unity to advance these negotiations. We appreciate the Kingdom of Norway’s constructive role in facilitating these negotiations.

We continue to call for the unconditional release of all those unjustly detained for political reasons, for the independence of political parties, for freedom of expression including for members of the press, and for an end to human rights abuses.

We call for electoral conditions that abide by international standards for democracy, beginning with the local and regional elections scheduled for November 2021.

We remain committed to supporting the Venezuelan people and to addressing Venezuela’s dire humanitarian crisis. We welcome further agreement among all political actors in Venezuela to allow for unfettered and transparent access to humanitarian assistance, to include food, medicine, vaccines, and other critical COVID-19 relief supplies.

We reiterate our willingness to review sanctions policies if the regime makes meaningful progress in the announced talks.

Department Press Briefing – August 11, 2021


 Today marks one month since the Cuban people took to the streets, making a call for freedom heard around the world. The Cuban Government responded with a brutal wave of repression unseen in decades. As of today, over 800 Cubans have been reported detained for peacefully demonstrating on July 11th. By some accounts, there may be hundreds more. Many are held incommunicado, without access to family or legal representation; secret, summary judicial proceedings lack fair trial guarantees and seek to repress, to silence, and make examples of anyone who added their voice to peaceful protests on July 11th.

The Government of Cuba denies this systematic abuse of human rights and refuses access to international observers. Cuba’s leaders are counting on the world to turn a blind eye to their repression. The world must not look away. The United States will not look away. We join the families who are suffering and scared, Cuba’s human rights defenders, and those who share our concern around the world in calling for the immediate release of all those detained or missing for merely exercising their rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.

Addressing the ongoing crisis in Cuba is a top priority. At President Biden’s direction, the U.S. Government is actively focused on providing support to the Cuban people, whether it is facilitating humanitarian assistance or information access. We’ve brought to bear the strength of international diplomacy, rallying nations around the world to speak out in support of the Cuban people and in condemnation of the regime’s violent response to the protests. And we are holding the repressors accountable for human rights abuses through the Global Magnitsky sanctions program.

Remarks by President Biden at Meeting with Cuban American Leaders


4:57 P.M. EDT    

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, I’m honored to welcome members of the Cuban American community, and Senator Menendez, Senator [Congressman] Meeks to discuss how the United States is going to continue to stand with the Cuban people, who have suffered for decades and decades under a failed communist regime.

Earlier this month, Cubans took to the street in a historic demonstration of the will of the people of Cuba.  The regime responded with violence and repression, mass detentions, sham trials, and people disappearing who — who have spoken out.  Just disappearing.  Family members, I’m told, are not able — have no idea where their family members are back in Cuba.  And — in a brazen violation of the rights of the Cuban people. 

The Cuban Americans are hurting.  They’re hurting because their loved ones are suffering.  And it’s, quite frankly, intolerable.

So, I want the Cuban Americans to know that we — all around this table and myself included — see your pain, we hear your voices, and we hear the cries of freedom coming from the island.

The United States is taking concerted action to bolster the cause of the Cuban people.  We’ve brought to bear the strength of our diplomacy, rallying nations to speak out and increase pressure on the regime.  And we’re holding the regime accountable.

Last week, we sanctioned the head of Cuban armed forces and the government — a government entity called the “Black Berets” for their involvement in suppressing protesters.

And, today, we are adding sanctions against the Revolutionary National Police, as well as individual sanctions against the chief and deputy chief — the chief and deputy chief. 

And we’re going to continue to add sanctions on individuals that carry out — that carry out the regime’s abuses.

At the same time, we’re increasing direct support for the Cuban people by pursuing every option available to provide Internet access to help the Cuban bypass — the Cuban people bypass the censorship that’s being mandatorily imposed.

You always know something is not going well when the — a country will not allow — will not allow their people to be engaged in — be on the Internet and being able to make their case known around the world.  

And we’re expanding our assistance to political prisoners and dissidents.

And the direct State — and I’ve directed the State Department and the Treasury Department to provide me, within one month, recommendations of how to maximize the flow of remittances to the Cuban people, without the Cuban military taking their cut.

And we’re working to increase U.S. staffing at our embassy while prioritizing the safety of our personnel.

So, we’ve got a lot to discuss with this group.  So, we got — and mostly, I’m here to listen.  I want to know what their ideas are.  And you are some of the best experts on the issue. 

The first person to bring this to my attention and to make sure that we were on top of this was Senator Menendez.  And we think that — you know, the American — the Cuban American people are actually the best ambassadors for the Cuban people.

And so, my administration is going to make sure that their voices are included and uplifted at every step of the way.  And we’re gong to get down to business. 

So, thank you all for bothering to come in.  I appreciate it. 

Q    Will there be more sanctions coming up, Mr. President?  Or is that it, today?

THE PRESIDENT:  I beg your pardon?

Q    I said: Will there be more sanctions against Cuba coming up or are you stopping with what you did today?

THE PRESIDENT:  We are — there will be more, unless there’s some drastic change in Cuba, which I don’t anticipate.

Thank you.


Background Press Call by a Senior Administration Official on Cuba


Via Teleconference

2:32 P.M. EDT

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Thanks so much, and good afternoon, everyone.  Thank you for joining us this afternoon.  And welcome to an on-background conference call where we’ll be — we’ll be discussing Cuba. 

For your reference, today we are joined by [senior administration official].  And from this point on, we’ll be referring to them as a “senior administration official,” per the ground rules of the call. 

We’ll start with some quick remarks, and then we’ll open it up for question-and-answer.  The contents of today’s briefing will be embargoed until 3:45 p.m. this afternoon.  And as always, if you have follow-up questions, feel free to email me or the NSC press team distro at

And with that, I’ll turn the floor over to [a senior administration official].

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Thank you, [senior administration official].  It’s been a busy week at the White House and the administration in general on Latin America. 

You all saw on Monday that Secretary Blinken — the State Department released a joint statement with 20 countries condemning the crackdown on peaceful protesters in — that came out into the streets all over Cuba on July 11th.  We also rolled out this week, as you saw, the Central America collaborative migration and root causes strategy.

On Thursday, we met with the Mexican delegation to think really strategically about how we can look at migration management beyond the bilateral relationship and looking at a, kind of, hemispheric approach to migration management. 

You saw that we put up the Federal Register notice on Haiti temporary protected status and it marked the date to — you know, to reflect since the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse.  And we have rolled out the President’s intention to nominate a well-respected academic and former policymaker at the Defense Department, Frank Mora, as the U.S. ambassador to the Organization of American States. 

What the President is doing today is — is part of what has been a very active period of engagement in response to the July 11th protests.  And he is doing — he’s going to take the time to meet with members of the Cuban American community, as well as Senator Robert Menendez, Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Greg Meeks, the Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

And basically, the President wants to hear directly from the community on not just the goings on and — but, frankly, what the President has said, which is how to hold the Cuban regime accountable for its violations of human rights, but also, at the same time, focusing on responding to the needs of the Cuban people. 

So, what we are — in addition to that conversation, we have Treasury Department, the Office of Foreign Assets Control, is going to have sanctions that are going to be coming out today.  I can’t get into specifics except to say that– except that one entity and two Cuban individuals are going to be designated pursuant to the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act for their role in human rights abuses.

You know, I already mentioned Frank Mora, that we are in talks with private sector providers about the possibility of providing wireless LTE communications to the Cuban people, which we consider to be a right.  We’re including all options, but we’re also looking at other ways to make sure that the Cuban people have the right to information, the right to communicate with each other, and the international community can really see the abuses that are taking place. 

We are also going to be talking about humanitarian support for the Cuban people.  And we’re going to have a few points to mention with regard to explaining the way forward for the remittance working group and just plans for the embassy staffing going forward.

So, but again, really the focus here is to hear from members of Congress that have been active on this issue from — from members of the Cuban American community.  And it follows on engagements by Congressman Cedric Richmond, senior advisor to the President, meeting with a much larger group of members of the community, but also meetings that I have had, at the request of Senator Menendez, with the Cuban American National Foundation, but also Cuba Decide,
to hear all points of views on Cuba and really to try to do what’s best to provide the President and the Secretary of State with our best objective analysis and recommendations on the way forward following the July 11th protests in Cuba.

So, I’ll leave it there.  I’m happy to enter into any — answer any questions.

Q    Thank you.  And thank you, [senior administration official], for doing this.  And thank you, [senior administration official].  One question regarding to the team at the State Department that is studying the possibilities and measures in order to help Cubans with the remittances and Internet without helping or providing support, if I can say that in that way, to the regime: Is there any specific measure that you can advance or tell us about these two possibilities?

I mean, sending remittances without using the Cuban bank system is quite difficult.  There is no other bank system in Cuba that is not controlled by the regime.  And providing Internet, it seems that it would be a kind of activity that the — it would violate the Cuban sovereignty of the territory, and it could create maybe a counterproductive situation.

I mean, what are the real options besides just repeating that you are studying that and you’re studying and trying to identify technical solutions?  Is there anything concrete that you can tell us today?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Yeah, thanks.  I’m not going to get out ahead of the President.  I think anything that’s discussed at the meeting will — will be rolled out afterward.  But, you know, you hit two very — two, you know, very real challenges when it comes to Internet connectivity, but also the issue of remittances.

On the latter, look, I’ll say that technology is advancing every day.  And in the example of Venezuela, for example, we’ve actually been able to roll out licenses that have allowed, you know, the interim government to send money directly to people in Venezuela

And so, what I think is really important here is we have looked at recommendations that even came out under the previous administration.  They put together a Internet communications working group that issued a series of recommendations.  We looked at those.  But then, what we want to do is, we put together a U.S. government group together.  They’re going to consult with, you know, members of Congress, with the experts, and try to make some recommendations on how — on what’s the best way to go forward.

The point here is — again, is maximizing the benefit to the Cuban people, and that really has to be the focus of everything that we do in this situation. 

With regard to Internet connectivity, there are no silver bullets.  If it’s something that could be done easily, it would have been done already in places like Iran and in other closed regimes.  You know, but — we see the access to — we see the censorship of information as a violation of human rights.  And so we’re going to explore every option possible to be able to guarantee that access to that information.

But also, in a — you know, in a transparent manner, what our Cuban democracy programs and our Google programs do is — is actually support, you know, civil society, artists, musicians to be able to do what they do without any sort of ideological objective, but just to do — practice their craft and — but that also includes access to information, the ability to communicate with each other, but also the importance of making sure that that the international community is not blind to the abuses and the crackdown that’s being perpetrated by the Cuban regime.

Q    Hello.  Thank you for taking my question.  Here at the White House, we’ve seen massive protests lately that included thousands of Cuban Americans who are asking for more action from this administration — that includes Republican legislators, as well.

I have two questions.  The first one is: Is this administration — or the President, for that matter — meeting with any Republican legislators — not necessarily today, but maybe in the following days or in the previous days? 

And also, can you give us full — not a full, but maybe like some — a list of the participants that are going to be taking part in this meeting with the President later on today?

And is the administration — has the administration a set plan towards Cuba?  Or is it open to new ideas that might come out either from the participants today or from legislators in Congress? 

Thank you.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Yeah, thanks for the question.  So, look, we’ve been — we’ve been listening to the protesters, you know, when — I’m here on the weekends.  And, you know, we’ve been listening to them and we’ve been talking to members of the community.  And I will say that, when I say “we,” I mean the administration.

The State Department has been regularly briefing members of Congress from the House and the Senate.  And, of course, we — I think the dialogues that Congressman Richmond, that I have engaged in, but also at the State Department and others have been engaging in are to he- — are to listen to Cuban Americans. 

It’s important to really listen to their voices and what they’re calling for, and — but also to — really to make sure that we keep the focus not on the United States or the conflict with the United States and Cuba, but rather on the Cuban people and the rights that they’re demanding.  And the focus the international community needs to be to stand up for them, to stand up for their rights, and to make sure that we’re doing everything to support them, including, by any means, to prov- — you know, provide — efforts to provide humanitarian assistance. 

As you know, those who are political dissidents are be — are abandoned by the government.  They don’t have access to basic necessities.  They don’t have access to hospital services.  They’re cut off — they and their families are cut off.  And so, I think it’s important for the international community to stand up for these people. 

So, I mean, I guess — you asked if the President had already made up his mind on Cuba policy or if he’s willing to hear more from the community.  My response to that is that that’s why he’s holding these meetings, but also why he’s receiving daily updates on the situation and why the State Department primarily has been engaging regularly with members of Congress to hear their views. 

And that’s why, for example, the remittance working group is one that is going to be engaging with members of Congress to try to get, you know, as much guidance as possible.  I mean, I don’t know — I think that answers your question.

Q    Hi, good afternoon.  Thanks for doing this call.  Just to clarify, should we expect an announcement today on Internet access or on remittances or not? 

And secondly, on the sanctions, I know you don’t want to give information in advance of the OFAC release, but just a general question: How effective do you think that these sanctions on Cuban officials can be, since 50 years of embargo and sanctions have not succeeded in changing their (inaudible) behavior?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Yeah, no, on the second question, that’s an important question.  Look, what we’re doing through these individual sanctions, as the President has said, is that we are focusing on individuals and entities that are involved in the crackdown and the violation of human rights by the regime.  Part of it is to layer on sanctions, but the other one is to make sure that we are keeping these individuals in the spotlight not just on the international community, but that the Cuban people know that the United States is supporting them and is trying to defend them. 

So, we’re going to — as the President said, the sanctions are rolled out that — last week were just the beginning.  And we’re going to try to keep — we’re going to do everything we can to keep Cuba on the front burner so that they can talk about — keep the conversation on the — on the rights of the Cuban people and their — and their right to manifest peacefully.

 And so the other — sorry, what was the other question you had?  I didn’t get the first question.

Q    Can you hear me?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Yeah, we can hear you.  Sorry about that.  Go ahead.

Q    Oh, okay.  Sorry.  My question was whether we can expect an announcement today on —

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Oh, yeah.  Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Q    — (inaudible) remittances.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Yeah, thank you.  So, look, we are going to be — we’re going to be announcing a series of things.  And, you know, those include efforts to improve Internet connectivity and other means to make sure that we are supporting the ability of the Cuban people to communicate with each other.  And we see information as something that should be treated as a human right. 

Q    Thank you very much.  To follow up on that: Are you going to be announcing anything on remittances?  Are you going to be announcing anything on our diplomats going back to Havana and theirs coming back to Washington?  And if the President wanted to hear from all points of view — at least you haven’t mentioned any Republicans who are going to be present — is Senator Rubio or any other Republican members or senators going to be present? 


So, he is going to be making — he is going to be making announcements on both.  Either in the meeting or afterward, I think he’s going to be — some of it he’ll mention, you know, at the camera spray at the top.  Some of it may come up at the meeting. 

I think the focus is going to be on hearing from members of the community.  And — but we do have plans to provide more information on the Remittance Working Group that he directed the U.S. government to form and plans for U.S. Embassy augmentation. 

What I’ll say is it that, look — given the protests of July 11th, it is important for U.S. diplomats to engage directly with the Cuban people.  And if we can do that in a way that is — that ensures the safety of U.S. personnel, that is something that — that we will undertake.  But we’ll be able to say something more about that — the meeting. 

So, what the focus of the meeting today — and the participants, and I can mention some of them — is — are members of the Cuban American community.  They are going to be the ones that are going to be the main speakers here.  And we invited the respective Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the Chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee to join the conversation as well. 

But we’re going to have individuals like Felice Gorordo, who is the CEO of eMerge Americas and has worked for Republican and Democratic administrations. 

We’re going to also be hearing from Yotuel Romero, who is the Grammy Award winning artist and activist that wrote the song “Patria y Vida.” 

We have, also, members of the religious community — Father Fernando Eduardo Heria, Director of the National Shrine of Our Lady of Charity of Cuba. 

And actually, several other people have been — have been invited. 

But again, in the conversations that we’ve been having, we’ve been meeting with people across the political spectrum and folks that have a range of views. 

And so, I think it’s going to be only the beginning of a regular engagement with the Cuban American community so that we can develop the right policies to support the Cuban people.  

Thank you. 

Q    Hi.  This is Anne Gearan with the Post.  It — following on a couple of questions about the Internet connectivity: I mean, can you give us some specifics here, please, about what might be possibilities?

I mean, one thing that’s been reported is the potential to do balloons off the island.  Other things that have been reported have been ways for the United States to direct Internet toward Cuba.  Are those what’s under discussion here?  Can you help us out a little bit so that we have something that we can actually report at 3:45? 

And secondly, on the Internet, is there anything that you all could do in terms of connectivity that could not be blocked by the regime?  Thank you.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  So, I can’t offer you many details on what we’re doing or what we’re going to be announcing because I don’t want to get ahead of the President.  But what I’m saying is we’ve been — we heard, you know, the — Governor Ron DeSantis wrote a letter to the President.  Senator Marco Rubio wrote a letter.  We’ve been hearing also in our consultations with — the administration’s consultations with members of Congress, and we’ve been exploring all those options.

So, the administration, (inaudible) the Department of Commerce, Department of Treasury, the FCC have been looking at what rulemaking authorizations, licenses we can provide that would allow any of those options to work.  But we’re looking at — when we’re talking to private sector companies and looking at all the legal and technical restrictions to doing that, it’s challenging because whether you’re looking at satellite technology or balloons or anything, a lot of those signals are fairly easy to block.  But we have to explore any and all options to — exhaust any and all options to provide Internet connectivity.

The other point I’ll mention, just in terms of — and this is, obviously, open source information — is that
the regime actually cut Internet for, I think, between 30 minutes and an hour, maybe a little bit more, and after that was involved in selective blocking of websites and areas where there were specific protests.

In that regard, there are tools and there’s technology that civil society actors are able to use to circumvent censorship.  There’s been a dramatic increase in their use of VPN technology, (inaudible) proxies.  And so all of those are — you know, it’s all unclassified, it’s all out there.  And it’s really about making sure that the Cuban American people have — or the Cuban people have the training and have the technical know-how and the tools to be able to do that. 

And obviously, the goal is to support it so that the Cuban people can communicate with each other.  And that information about the regime’s abuses can make it out into the — and be seen by the international community.

So we have funds in the Open Technology Fund.  There’s work that we have with international partners.  And so there are a lot of different options, and we’re trying to exhaust all of them to make sure that we’re doing everything possible to support those Cubans that are out in the streets — that were out in the streets demanding their rights.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  And this is [senior administration official], and we’re just about out of time.  I just want to say thanks to everyone for joining, especially since I know we also have the briefing going on concurrently — the White House briefing.

As a reminder, this call is on background, attributable to “a senior administration official.”  The contents of the call are embargoed until 3:45.  If you have any additional questions, feel free to reach out to me, and otherwise, have a great day.

 The White House

Washington DC
30 July 2021

Press Briefing by Principal Deputy Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre

Q And a question with respect to Cuba and the ongoing policy review. I know there's a meeting today, but has there been any movement on actionable steps? Specifically, does the President plan to lift travel restrictions between the U.S. and Cuba, and make it easier for Cuban Americans to send money to their relatives on the island, both of which are issues he campaigned on?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah, no, and both important issues that we understand to the Cuban people. So we're not going to preview any specific actions here. That is not something that I'm going to do from the podium.
I will say that on the remit- -- remittances, this is a complex issue that requires coordination with experts that will help to inform the administration's policy. So, at the President's direction, the Department of Treasury and State will form a remittance working group to review available options to establishing those channels.

Q Karine, may I follow up, please, on Cuba? Right -- right back here. May I follow up on Cuba, please? Thank you so much. You may have noticed those protests last week across the street from the White House. I don't know if you or anybody from the White House happened to speak to those protesters, but I did. And it’s anecdotal, of course,
but they say they see no difference between the policy of President Biden towards Cuba and the policy of former President Obama towards Cuba. Is the approach the same of those two Presidents -- of President Biden currently and the former President, President Obama?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, I'm going to be really clear here. So, since day one, we have said many times -- many, many times -- that the Cuban Americans are the best ambassadors for freedom and prosperity in Cuba, is what I said at the beginning. Today, the President is going to sit down and -- to meet with Cuban Americans, leaders at the White House -- that's what he's going to do in just a few hours -- to discuss the demonstrations and the administration's response. And so -- including applying new sanctions on Cuba -- on Cuban leaders and establishing Internet access for the Cuban people. So, we want to lift up the Cuban people, and that is going to be our focus. On July 22nd, The Treasury -- the Treasury's Office of Foreign Assistant [Assets] Control sanctioned one of the Cuban individuals and one Cuban entity for serious human rights abuses and the repression of peaceful pro-democratic protests in Cuba that began on July 11th. So we are going to continue to lift up the Cuban American people that -- I'm sorry, the Cuban people -- and we're going to have a conversation. As I just mentioned, the President will have one today, and we'll probably have more to read out from that.

State Department Press Briefing – July 30, 2021

Let’s go to Michele Kelemen, please.

OPERATOR: Ms. Kelemen, your line is open. Please, go ahead.

QUESTION: Thank you. I see that President Biden is meeting this afternoon with Cuban Americans. I’m wondering what the administration is doing specifically to help protesters there, to help them maintain internet access on the island. And are you disappointed that Spain and Canada and the EU did not sign on to the joint statement with Secretary Blinken earlier this week? Thanks.

MS PORTER: Thank you, Michele. I certainly won’t get ahead of the President and his meeting, but I’ll continue to underscore that the United States certainly stands with the Cuban people, and, of course, that means addressing the moment and the ongoing situation is a top priority for the Biden-Harris administration. At President Biden’s direction, the United States is actively pursuing measures that would both support the Cuban people as well as hold the Cuban regime accountable for its human rights violations. I would also say that the administration is working closely with the private sector as well as the Congress to identify some viable solutions to make the internet more accessible for the Cuban people as well.

Statement by President Joseph R. Biden, Jr. on Continuing Crackdown in Cuba


I unequivocally condemn the mass detentions and sham trials that are unjustly sentencing to prison those who dared to speak out in an effort to intimidate and threaten the Cuban people into silence. The Cuban people have the same right to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly as all people. The United States stands with the brave Cubans who have taken to the streets to oppose 62 years of repression under a communist regime.
Today, my Administration is imposing new sanctions targeting elements of the Cuban regime responsible for this crackdown—the head of the Cuban military and the division of the Cuban Ministry of the Interior driving the crackdown—to hold them accountable for their actions. This is just the beginning–the United States will continue to sanction individuals responsible for oppression of the Cuban people.
As we hold the Cuban regime accountable, our support for the Cuban people is unwavering and we are making sure Cuban Americans are a vital partner in our efforts to provide relief to suffering people on the Island. We are working with civil society organizations and the private sector to provide internet access to the Cuban people that circumvents the regime’s censorship efforts. We are reviewing our remittance policy to determine how we can maximize support to the Cuban people. And we are committed to restaffing our embassy in Havana to provide consular services to Cubans and enhance our ability to engage with civil society, while ensuring the safety of U.S. diplomats serving in Cuba.
Advancing human dignity and freedom is a top priority for my Administration, and we will work closely with our partners throughout the region, including the Organization of American States, to pressure the regime to immediately release wrongfully detained political prisoners, restore internet access, and allow the Cuban people to enjoy their fundamental rights.

Sanctioning Cuban Security Forces in Response to Violent Repression of Protests



JULY 22, 2021Starting on July 11, tens of thousands of Cubans in dozens of cities and towns throughout their country took to the streets to peacefully demand respect for their fundamental freedoms and a better future. In response, the Cuban regime violently repressed the protests, arresting hundreds of demonstrators simply for exercising their human rights of freedom of expression and peaceful assembly. The actions of Cuban security forces and violent mobs mobilized by Cuban Communist Party First Secretary Miguel Diaz-Canel lay bare the regime’s fear of its own people and unwillingness to meet their basic needs and aspirations.

Today, the United States is imposing sanctions on Minister of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Cuba Álvaro López Miera and the Cuban Ministry of the Interior’s Special National Brigade or “Boinas Negras” (Black Berets). López Miera and the Special National Brigade have been involved in suppressing the protests, including through physical violence and intimidation. We take this action pursuant to Executive Order 13818, which builds upon and implements the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act.

We stand with every Cuban seeking a government that respects the human rights and dignity of the Cuban people. We will continue to take action to promote accountability for the Cuban government’s human rights abuses, including through additional sanctions pursuant to Global Magnitsky, as appropriate.


Department Press Briefing – July 22, 2021




MR PRICE: I expect you all have seen the statement from the President, the statement from Secretary Blinken, the statement from the Department of the Treasury, regarding our latest action to hold to account the Cuban regime for its abuses in the aftermath of the protests, the peaceful protests in Cuba. And so, with that, I have nothing but my eagerness and happiness to take your questions.

QUESTION: Eagerness?

MR PRICE: Eagerness. I’m always eager, Matt.

QUESTION: Okay. Well, let’s start with Cuba, then.


QUESTION: You designated one person and an entity that was already covered by Global Magnitsky sanctions that were imposed by the Trump administration in January. So, I don’t understand why you think that this is such a big deal.

MR PRICE: Well, Matt, let me first give you a bit of context to make sure this is understood in the right light. As we have said, since the onset of the peaceful protests across the island of Cuba, we will stand with the Cuban people, who are exercising their universal rights of peaceful protest, peaceful assembly, freedom of speech. We will look at additional ways we can support them. We have spoken to the formation of a remittance working group. We have spoken about the ways in which we are seeking to expand internet access so that the Cuban people can practice that freedom of expression and have the free flow of information to which they are entitled. We have spoken to our review of how we might augment our staffing at our embassy in Havana.

But we have also said that we are going to hold to account those Cuban individuals and entities responsible for the crackdown on this peaceful protest. And I said yesterday that the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control is exploring designating Cuban officials, Cuban entities, responsible for violence, repression, human rights violations against those who are perpetrating this in Cuba.

So, you are right; we designated through the Global Magnitsky sanctions regime one individual and one entity today. This I do not expect will be the sum total of our actions. We’re going to continue to review what more we can do not only to support the Cuban people, but also, again, importantly to hold to account those who would be so brazen in their efforts and attempts to violate the human rights of the Cuban people. So —

QUESTION: Okay. But I mean, the special brigade of the interior ministry was already covered by Global Magnitsky sanctions. So, you – so you’ve – you’ve added another designation on – I just don’t – the impact of this seems to me whatever the impact would have been – it seems to have been – it seems to be negligible, since they were already covered. So, I don’t quite understand how it is that you are presenting this as some grand new initiative to support the Cuban people, when in fact it’s simply adding another layer, which was really unnecessary, since they already were covered by the sanctions.

MR PRICE: I would make a couple points. Number one, the Global Magnitsky sanctions regime is an important tool we have that is applicable —

QUESTION: It is. But they were already under it.

MR PRICE: — that is – Alvaro Lopez Miera was?

QUESTION: No, I’m talking about the – that’s one person, okay, who most likely doesn’t have any assets or any dealings with American citizens.

MR PRICE: Just – just so – just so no —

QUESTION: So, let’s talk about what the real impact would be, would be if you designated the whole entity of the – a part of the interior ministry, like with the Iran sanctions, okay? That would have a much bigger impact, whatever that impact would be. But the fact of the matter is that they were already covered by Global Magnitsky sanctions. The exact same sanction, the exact same executive order was used to do this, and it doesn’t have any – it doesn’t do anything new.

MR PRICE: Just so we’re not having a conversation just with each other, let me just level set with everyone.

QUESTION: Well, I’ll be – I’m done after that.

MR PRICE: Well, so as Matt alluded to, we have imposed sanctions on the minister of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Cuba, Alvaro Lopez Miera, as well as the Ministry of the Interior’s Special National Brigade. These – this individual, this entity, we have targeted them as part of our effort – that is not over, to be sure – to hold to account those actors in Cuba who have been responsible for the crackdown, for the repression, for the human rights abuses on those in Cuba who are doing nothing more than exercising their universal rights.

Now, we obviously do have a well-developed sanctions regime in place that covers different elements and entities in Cuba. That said, the embargo and the other sanctions tools – they do have carveouts. They have carveouts for a number of reasons. It is absolutely true that by sanctioning this individual and this entity some of those carveouts are closed, that there will be repercussions and implications for this individual and this entity. And it’s an important signal of our determination to hold accountable those responsible for this.


QUESTION: Specifically what carveouts are closed in that case? What are they not going to get that they were getting before? Just to follow up on Matt’s question, what’s the practical impact of this, or is it largely symbolic?

MR PRICE: Well, there is an important messaging element to this. The Global Magnitsky regime is a valuable tool we have that, again, is not applicable solely in the context of Cuba but the world over, and we’ve used it to good effect, the world over. Now with the Global Magnitsky regime, there are a number of implications, some of which do apply to this individual and this entity, some of which may not, given the rather unique circumstances.

QUESTION: Like weapons, money, food? I mean —

MR PRICE: So, let me give you a couple examples. And now obviously we’re not able to detail specific holdings of entities or individuals, but under this regime all property, and interest in property, in any of the entities that are owned directly or indirectly or with other designated persons that are in the United States or in the possession or control of U.S. persons are blocked and must be reported to OFAC, unless authorized otherwise. In addition, these persons and all property and interest in property of these persons are blocked pursuant to the Cuban Assets Control Regulations. These prohibitions further include the making of any contribution or provision of funds, goods, or services by, to, or for the benefit of any blocked person or the receipt of any contribution or provision of funds, goods, or services from any such person.

So, there are a number of implications. Some of this is highly technical, especially given the intersection with the broader sanctions tools we have applied in the context of Cuba. But this is a meaningful and important step.


QUESTION: I want to also ask you about remittances. Because the President said that he’s looking for ways to get remittances directly to the people, not to the regime, as well as looking at the internet being restored, if there was some technical way that that could be done. On remittances, I interviewed Marco Rubio today, and he said it’s just not possible, because – unless the regime changes its policy of requiring that all remittances be deposited in government banks, be converted into pesos, which are useless in terms of any value, even on the island, compared to dollars. So, he said there’s no point in trying to do that, unless the regime changes its policy.

MR PRICE: What the President said earlier this week is that the administration would form a remittance working group to study this very issue. It’s namely to identify the most effective way possible or potentially to get those remittances directly into the hands of the Cuban people. This is a concern we share. The – this administration shares this concern with many in Congress that remittances would find their way into Cuban Government coffers. This is precisely why we are looking closely at the issue, to determine tools, tactics, procedures that might be possible to allow us to push forward with our goals, and that is, in the first instance, supporting the Cuban people, providing them with the much-needed humanitarian relief that so, clearly, they are calling for and desperate for, without buttressing the regime.

So, this working group was just announced earlier this week. Don’t have any more updates to share, at this time. But this concern about funds potentially going into Cuban Government coffers, but also this ultimate objective, supporting the Cuban people, supporting their needs, supporting their aspirations – it’s also something we share with members of Congress, and so we’ll continue to work closely with them.

QUESTION: And anything – has anything been advanced on the internet?

MR PRICE: Well, this is also something that the President spoke to for the first time, at least in detail, this week. And what we said is that we will work closely with two entities, really – the private sector, as well as with Congress – to identify viable options to make the internet more accessible to the Cuban people. This is a goal that’s important, in its own right. Freedom of expression, the ability of people anywhere and everywhere to freely communicate is something the United States always stands for, always supports. But it’s especially important now because the Cuban regime, we have seen in recent days, has enacted these blackouts, these internet shutdowns, precisely in an effort to stifle the protest, to silence the Cuban people.

And, of course, this does nothing to satisfy the legitimate aspirations of the Cuban people. This is a sign of a government that, in some ways, is scared of its own people. And so, it’s especially important to us, given the actions that the Cuban regime has undertaken in recent days, to explore again with Congress and the private sector ways we can support the ability of the Cuban people to do what people, the world over, are entitled to do: exercise their freedom of expression, to share ideas without these sort of technical impediments.


QUESTION: Thanks. On the remittances, are you saying we will find a way to allow remittances and to get this money in the Cuban hands, or are you still saying that there is a chance that this won’t work and there is no way to make that money – doesn’t go in the regime coffers?

And also, on – on the embassy staffing, do you have any timing, any date for when it will happen? Will it happen in the next days or weeks or month?

MR PRICE: Well, on your first question, we’re forming a working group precisely to find out. We know that the underlying goal is something that certainly has the support of this administration; it has the support of other key stakeholders, including Congress, including many Americans, including Cuban Americans. And that is the objective of supporting the Cuban people, supporting their needs, also helping them to achieve their broader aspirations. We’re studying it because, again, we want to make sure or we want to test the proposition, I should say, that this is something we can do consistent with a countervailing priority, and that is to ensure that we don’t do anything that buttresses or strengthens the regime. So, we’re taking a close look at the issue. The – again, the working group was just announced this week, so as we have more details to share, we will.

Similarly, with our staffing plan for the embassy, we are – that plan was just announced this week. We’re taking a close look at a couple things: what our needs are, and what we could do with additional resources and additional people from our embassy in Havana, but also taking a close look at a number of factors, including the safety and security of people who may be going to Havana, some people who may be returning to Havana. That’s obviously a top priority for us around the world. It’s, as we talked about in this room the other day, certainly something we’re taking a close look at in the context of Cuba given one of the reasons for our drawdown in the first place.

So as soon as we have —

QUESTION: Is that a matter of weeks or a month?

MR PRICE: I wouldn’t want to put a timeframe on it. Obviously, the – our ability to engage directly with the Cuban people, to support the Cuban people, to hear directly from them, to engage in consular activity – it’s a priority for us. We’re working as fast as we can, but we are also doing it consistent with other priorities I laid out.

QUESTION: And deliver visa to Cuban people is one of the goals?

MR PRICE: I’m sorry?

QUESTION: To deliver visas to Cuban people is one of the goals?

MR PRICE: We are looking at a number of ways we might be able to support the Cuban people and to hold the regime to account. We’ve spoken to several of them, including the new designations today, but I wouldn’t want to get ahead of that.


State Dept Press Briefing 7/21/21


QUESTION: Sorry, on Cuba.


QUESTION: Assistant Secretary Julie Chung put out some tweets about Cuba, and one of them mentioned, “We are going to focus on applying hard-hitting sanctions on regime officials.” Could you tell us a bit more about, like, what kind of sanctions you’re considering? Is this going to be GLOMAG? Or is there – is there – there are other ways that you could do this? And then is this a situation where you think sanctioning officials is going to make a difference?


MR PRICE: Well, so as not to repeat everything I said yesterday and to not face the ire —

QUESTION: The wrath.


MR PRICE: — the wrath, I will just make the very brief point that we spoke yesterday of steps that we are studying and looking into that would support the Cuban people, but also steps that would seek to hold to account Cuban Government officials responsible for the repression, for the crackdown, for the violence in the context of these peaceful street protests.

When it comes to sanctions, the Treasury Department’s OFAC, the Office of Foreign Assets Control, is exploring designating Cuban officials responsible for violence, repression, human rights violations against those peaceful protesters. We’re also working diligently with the international community to condemn the violence and repression that the Cuban people have faced. This is, as is almost always the case, one of those areas where U.S. action will be meaningful, it will be, we expect, effective, but it will be all the more meaningful if we are able to speak with one voice with the international community and we are able to make clear that the international community does not abide the regimes repression, crackdown, deprivation of human rights and civil liberties for the Cuban people.

So as you can expect, I’m not in a position to detail now what any potential sanctions might look like, what authorities we might use, but we are certainly looking at ways that we can hold accountable those Cuban regime officials who have been responsible for what we’ve seen.

QUESTION: So you don’t – there aren’t enough sanctions against Cuba already?

MR PRICE: Well —


QUESTION: You feel there’s still more room?


MR PRICE: Well, there – we are confident there is more room. There are broad sanctions imposed against Cuba, of course, with humanitarian carve-outs and tools we can use to ensure that much-needed humanitarian supplies can reach the Cuban people. But we are confident that we have policy tools available to us, to potentially include sanctions, that could be wielded against specific individuals who may be responsible for some of what we’ve seen.


QUESTION: Ned, what about helping the Cubans receive internet service? Do you have anything on this?


MR PRICE: We discussed this yesterday.




MR PRICE: I’m happy to give you the quick summary, but we are working with the private sector and with Congress to identify viable options to make the internet more accessible to the Cuban people. And when we talk about our collaboration with the private sector, we are actively collaborating to identify solutions and proposals that are creative and to seek to ensure that the Cuban people have access to that free flow of information. That’s so important to us in large part because we have seen the actions that the Cuban Government has taken in the context of these peaceful demonstrations — the internet crackdowns, the blockages, the efforts on the part of the regime to stifle the voice of the Cuban people, to stifle their access to information – and so we are exploring options with both Congress and the private sector to that effect.


Remarks by President Biden and Chancellor Merkel of the Federal Republic of Germany in Press Conference

The second question is: When it comes to Cuba, what is your current thinking on American sanctions toward Cuba and the embargo? And today, your Press Secretary said that communism is a “failed ideology.” I assume that’s your view. I was wondering if you could also give us your view on socialism.

PRESIDENT BIDEN:  Well, let me start off by answering the question relative to Haiti and Cuba. And communism is a failed system — a universally failed system. And I don’t see socialism as a very useful substitute, but that’s another story....
Number two, with regard to Cuba: Cuba is a — unfortunately, a failed state and repressing their citizens. There are a number of things that we would consider doing to help the people of Cuba, but it would require a different circumstance or a guarantee that they would not be taken advantage of by the government — for example, the ability to send remittances to — back to Cuba. I would not do that now because the fact is it’s highly likely that the regime would confiscate those remittances or big chunks of it.
With regard to the need COVID on — I mean — excuse me — they have a COVID problem on — in Cuba. I’d be prepared to give significant amounts of vaccine if, in fact, I was assured an international organization would administer those vaccines and do it in a way that average citizens would have access to those vaccines.
And one of the things that you did not ask but we’re considering is — they’ve cut off access to the Internet. We’re considering whether we have the technological ability to reinstate that access.

White House January 20

Q    And on the Cuba meeting that happened last night —

MS. PSAKI:  Mm-hmm.

Q    It was a virtual event — a handful of people, primarily from South Florida.  Has there been any conversation about having other meetings on that here?  And what more might the President do himself on this issue?  What might he do or say?  I know the administration continues to monitor it every day, of course. Analysis from Alzugaray, Rafael Hernandez, Arboleya, Silvio Rodriguez and others here

MS. PSAKI:  W, at the President’s direction, we are actively pursuing measures that both the Cuban people — that that support both the Cuban people and hold the Cuban regime accountable.  And that has been the prism through which the President has made his decision. 

So that includes working closely with the private sector and Congress to identify viable options to make the Internet more accessible to the Cuban people.  We’re looking at options.  There are a lot of ideas out there. 

We are also looking to leverage our international — international organization partners to increase humanitarian assistance flows to Cuba, and work with our international partners to help both voice concern and put public pressure on, but also work with international organizations. 

The Treasury Department via the Office of Foreign Assets Control will continue to explore designated Cuban officials responsible for violence, repression, and human rights violation against peaceful protesters in Cuba.  And we will form a remittance working group to identify the most effective way to get remittances directly into the hands of the Cuban people.

On the last piece, I would note that what the President said yesterday — or sorry, not yesterday — last week stands, which is that there has been longstanding concern about if you return remittances, if you return to a place where remittances are allowed, that that money or funding does not get into the hands of the regime or allow them to pad their pockets.  That’s certainly something that we’re mindful when we’re looking at — that will be a point of discussion in these working groups.

Q    And the President still hasn’t met with any of these people who’ve met with other White House officials on the issue? 

MS. PSAKI:  I don’t have — he has not.  We certainly remain open to, as we are engaging at quite a high level.  I don’t have anything to preview in terms of meetings at his level, but you can tell he’s asked his team to take a number of steps and look into a range of options. 



State Dept Jan 20


QUESTION: There is a – there’s news of a working group on remittances. Can you explain a little bit about that? Is there an intention at all to restart remittances in some way, even if it’s in a different way from before?

MR PRICE: Sure, let me give you a little more context. And you heard this from the White House, and my colleague at the White House I believe spoke to this earlier today. But as you know, we have consistently stood with the Cuban people, including in the context of the recent protests across the island nation. We will continue to support the Cuban people in their legitimate aspirations for human rights, for democracy, for the values that have for far too long – since 1959 at least – been denied to them.

As part of that, we will always look for ways to support them but also to the Cuban regime accountable. This includes our efforts to build international pressure against the abuses of the regime, designating sanctions against those responsible for the violence, for the repression that has followed the recent protests. And when it comes to assisting the Cubans, we’ll look at any number of ways. And that includes – you mentioned both remittances, and we also spoke to helping to facilitate internet access as well.

When it comes to remittances, as you heard, we will form a remittances working group to identify the most effective ways to get remittances – this is important – directly into the hands of the Cuban people. Beyond that, we are also reviewing our plans to augment staffing at our embassy in Havana to facilitate the consular activities, the engagement with civil society, and to make sure we have an appropriate security posture as well.

When it comes to internet access, we are working with the private sector as well as with Congress, which, of course, has a keen interest in all of this, to identify viable options to make the internet more accessible to the Cuban people and will also leverage our international partners, including international organizations, to do what we can to increase humanitarian assistance flows to Cuba.

Now, when it comes to the other side of the equation, holding the regime accountable, the Treasury, specifically via their Office of Foreign Assets Control, will continue to explore designating Cuban officials who are responsible for what we have seen – namely the violence, the repression, the human rights violations – again, against these peaceful protestors in Cuba who were and are doing nothing more than exercising their universal rights.

We’re also working diligently with the international community to collectively condemn this repression and support the Cuban people, who very clearly are demanding the freedom and the rights that have long been denied to them.

When it comes to remittances, Shaun, the administration, as I said before, is focused on allowing such transfers only if we can guarantee that the money flows directly into the hands of the Cuban people. We are going to, as we explore this issue, make sure that we are doing everything we can to see to it that those proceeds go to the Cuban people and that they do not go into the regime’s coffers. Again, this is a regime that has denied its people of resources and of rights, and I think we have seen that come to the fore in Cuba in recent days. And we’re, as you heard from the White House, very closely studying how we might affect this going forward.

QUESTION: Can I just press you on one point about – you were saying planning to augment staff at the embassy. Is that something that’s going to happen imminently? And what have you done specifically to engage civil society? Could you explain a bit more what these extra people will be doing?

MR PRICE: Sure. The staffing at our embassy will serve to enhance our diplomatic, our engagement – our diplomatic activity, our engagement with civil society, our consular service engagement, all of which will be in service of helping the Cuban people to secure greater degrees of human rights, of freedom, of the universal rights that have been denied to them for far too long.

So I don’t have anything to offer in terms of time frame, but we do know that if we are going to be doing all we can to support the aspirations of the Cuban people we need to have a presence on the ground that will appropriately position us to do just that.


QUESTION: Yeah, I have two follow-ups. Last week, President Biden said pretty clearly that he was not going to consider remittances. I’m wondering what changed between that conversation with Chancellor Merkel and today. I think you flicked at it a little bit by saying that you want to make sure that the money is going to go to the Cuban people, but that was something that could have been considered last week as well. So, what’s changed in the last few days?

And then also when you’re talking about augmenting staffing in Embassy Havana, what kind of precautions is the State Department taking to make sure that they are not victim to some of the illnesses that we’ve seen in years past there? Thanks.

MR PRICE: Thank you. So, what you heard from President Biden last week was the concern that I expressed today, and that is namely the fact that we are going to do everything we can as we study this issue to devise ways to ensure that these remittances – that in many cases are hard-earned funds from Cuban Americans and their associates back here in the United States to Cubans on the island – to ensure that they go directly to the people. That has been the concern with remittances in the past.

Look, we are all about devising ways that we can support the Cuban people, but we have to make sure that these tactics, these tools, these procedures in this case, do, in fact, support the Cuban people. We’ve engaged in a number of consultations, including with senior members of Congress on this. And we are confident that through studying the issue we may be able to devise ways to do just that, to affect these remittances, to ensure that the funds get into the hands of the Cuban people, while ensuring that they do not, on the other hand, go into the coffers of the regime.

QUESTION: Is it fair then to assume – sorry – that after the President’s comments members of Congress and others in the government said, “Hey, let’s take another look at this. There is a way we could at least study getting the money directly to the Cuban people, as opposed to it going to the regime”?

MR PRICE: As we have seen these peaceful protests take place on the island, the Cuban people demand the legitimate aspirations for human rights, for greater degrees of freedom, for liberty. We have made clear that we are going to thoroughly investigate any, and all ways that we can support those legitimate aspirations. We have been in regular contact with members of Congress, of course both before the protests of recent days and in the aftermath. We have heard good ideas from members of Congress; we’ve shared our ideas with members of Congress and other important stakeholders as well. So, this idea – of course, there’s nothing new about this particular idea. It’s always been on the table. But what is new is the announcement that we are going to study it very carefully, very closely to determine what and how we might be able to move forward in a way that supports the Cuban people without adding to the coffers of the regime.


MR PRICE: To your second question —

QUESTION: Yes. Thank you.

MR PRICE: — and staffing at the embassy, of course we have spoken very clearly about the priority we attach to the safety, the security, the well-being of our personnel around the world. We have also spoken just yesterday of the unexplained health incidents that have plagued our personnel around the world, and it’s no secret that Havana was a site of some of these incidents. So, as you know, I am not in a position to detail security precautions or measures that we may take, but every time we deploy our personnel overseas, we do so taking into account precautions and doing everything we can to see to it that our people are protected, that they have what they need to do their job effectively, and that their safety, well-being, and welfare is an utmost priority.

QUESTION: So, in other words, you have confidence that Embassy Havana and its environs are safe for diplomats in order for them to return. There’s not a concern that this – these illnesses could crop up again. There’s —

MR PRICE: Well, so what we said is that we’re going to review planning to augment personnel back at the embassy. We are taking every consideration into account, as you expect we would. The safety and security concerns are certainly one of those issues we’re going to take into account. But we’re just starting this process, so I don’t want to prejudge it right now.

QUESTION: Ned, on the remittances, I’m just a little confused about how you – when you say you want it to go directly to the Cuban people. Well, obviously that’s what – every administration has wanted that. But is there a percentage fee or a percentage of an amount that is sent to Cuba that you’re okay with that is taken by – a processing fee, administrative fee, whatever you want to call it – by a bank, which is obviously state-run, or a state-controlled enterprise, or one that has to pay the government, like Western Union or something like that? Is there a maximum percentage that you’re prepared to allow?

Because short of flying remittances – cash, from remittances into the embassy and then having people come to the embassy to hand it out to people, I don’t see how you’re going to get – it’s got – there’s a transaction here that doesn’t involve – unless you are going to do that – that doesn’t involve U.S. officials. So, when you say you want the money to go directly to the Cuban people, is there an amount that can – that is acceptable to go to a Cuban Government-owned or controlled entity?

MR PRICE: Well, of course, there’s not an amount that is acceptable to us to go into the coffers of the Cuban Government. After our – after all, our goal is to support the Cuban people and to help them achieve their aspirations, the aspirations that this very regime has, for far too long, denied to the Cuban people. So again, what we are doing is forming a remittance working group to identify the most effective ways to get remittances directly into their hands.

QUESTION: I get that. But does that mean that no fee is the only thing that’s acceptable? No percentage cut of whatever is sent is – there can’t be any —

MR PRICE: Again, when it comes to this working group, which was just announced yesterday and spoken to today, when it comes to our planning for Embassy Havana, these are – they are just now – the planning for these are just now underway, so I don’t want to get ahead of where we are. But it’s something we’re looking at very, very closely.

Simon. Sorry, yeah.

QUESTION: Staying on Cuba, you mentioned you’re trying to – working with Congress and the private sector to try and help expand internet access. Does that mean you’re sort of looking towards a private sector solution to this rather than, say, the U.S. military? (Inaudible) happen in other countries often (inaudible) private sector (inaudible) want to go through that route.

MR PRICE: Well, we’re working closely, yes, with the private sector, but we’re also working with Congress, as we are across many of these lines of effort, to identify viable options to make the internet more accessible to the Cuban people. We’re – we will be actively collaborating with our private sector partners to identify ways that may, in fact, be creative to ensure that the Cuban people have access to the free flow of information on the internet.

You’ve heard us say this before, but in the interim and right now – today – we call on Cuba’s leaders to reinstate and to maintain access to all internet and telecommunications services for all people within its borders. We support, just as in Cuba as we do around the world, unrestricted access to the global, open, interoperable, reliable, and secure internet, and we condemn actions by the Cuban Government to restrict this access.

Not only in Cuba but across the board, we very carefully examine and provide funding to support the development, the global deployment, and operation of the latest available secure and reliable technical solutions to internet censorship, to content blocking, and shutdowns. Our programming makes secure circumvention and communication tools available to internet users everywhere who may be – who may seek access to blocked websites and social media platforms, and that includes on Cuba.

We currently provide over $60 million in funding worldwide each year for programs to support that unrestricted access to the global, open, interoperable, reliable, and secure internet. These programs are so important to us precisely because they can help to promote human rights, fundamental freedoms, the free flow of information online, regardless of national boundaries or frontiers, consistent with international human rights norms and standards. We believe that the Cuban people deserve what people around the world deserve, and we’ll be looking at ways to assist that going forward.



MR PRICE: Staying on Cuba, let’s – sure, yeah.

QUESTION: One more. NBC News has confirmed the administration is looking at over 200 possible cases of these unexplained health incidents. Has the administration gotten any closer to determining who or what is behind them?

MR PRICE: Well, we have spoken to this in some detail, knowing that there’re going to be certain details that we’re not in a position to share broadly. But you heard me, in fact, say this yesterday, that the State Department is committed to ensuring the health, the safety, the well-being of our personnel and their families, and we are working diligently with our partners in the interagency to determine the cause of these incidents. The Secretary was asked about this on the Hill. Other members of the administration have been asked about that. We’re not in a position – we don’t yet know, precisely, the cause of these incidents, but we continue to encourage members of our mission communities around the world to report a potential UHI, or unexplained health incident, to their post’s security and medical personnel.

We are investigating and reviewing reports of incidents from all around the world. We’re also not in a position to confirm numbers. But as you know, Ambassador Spratlen, whom Secretary Blinken appointed to head the Health Incidents Response Task Force, along with our Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resources Brian McKeon, have been deeply engaged in this. And there have been communications to the entire workforce, to targeted members of the workforce; they have met with members of our workforce who have been – who have suffered from these unexplained health incidents. We are going to continue to do all we can to ensure that we are providing these employees with all the support they need as they deal with this going forward.




State Dept  Jan 19


QUESTION: The president of Cuba, Diaz-Canel, said that you guys are acquiescing to a small right-wing minority in Florida and their whims. Are you really acquiescing to their desires and their perceptions and their politics?

MR PRICE: Said, what we are doing is standing up for the same principles and values that we support around the world. It’s human rights, it’s democracy, it’s basic civil liberties and civil rights that the people of Cuba have been denied for far too long. So look, for us, we have made very clear that human rights are at the center of our foreign policy. The Cuban Government, every government around the world should take us at our word that human rights will be an anchor of our policy. 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.

Again, we are standing up for and supporting the same rights in Cuba that we do around the world.

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