Cuba's governing regime hasn't shown any signs that its behavior will improve after President Joe Biden announced sanctions targeting entities responsible for the crackdown on protesters in the island nation, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Friday.
"The regime tends to double down in these situations," Blinken said on MSNBC's "Morning Joe." "Again, this is not about us; this is about the Cuban people."
On Thursday, the U.S. Treasury Department said it is targeting the sanctions at Cuba's Defense Minister Alvaro Lopez Miera, as well as the National Special Brigade of the Ministry of the Interior — known as the Bolinas Negras or the "black berets" — "in connection with the repression of peaceful, pro-democratic protests in Cuba that began on July 11."
Blinken said Friday that one of the Cuban regime's "big mistakes" has been in trying to say the United States is responsible for the massive protests.
"We're not," he said. "These are the Cuban people. They are speaking out. They're standing up and speaking out. A regime that doesn't understand that and that lacks the confidence to allow the voices of its own people to be heard I think is making a very big mistake."
The tens of thousands of protesters that have taken to the streets of Havana and dozens of other cities are saying they're "fed up, fed up with repression, lack of freedom, fed up that they don't have food and medicine, have a government that is not providing for them, and making their voices heard," said Blinken.
The "smartest thing" the Cuban regime could do is to "listen to its own people instead of repressing them," he added. "We sanctioned the leaders, the Black Berets on the frontlines of taking violent action against people speaking out for freedom...it is very important that the Cuban people have an ability to communicate and one of the things we're very focused on, working with the private sector and others is doing everything we can to make sure they have internet access, speak to one another, have contact and communication with folks off the island. That's an active effort."
Meanwhile, Blinken said Biden has also sent a strong message to Russian President Vladimir Putin that cyberattacks won't be tolerated.
"President Biden addressed it directly with President Putin with the meeting in Geneva and more recently on the phone," said Blinken. "One of the things we're seeing is the increased use of ransomware. This is tremendously destructive. O]verall, one in four Americans is a victim of cybercrime and $40 billion is lost on an annual basis. Ransomware is increasingly dangerous. What we make clear to Russia but to other countries around the world is if you're harboring individuals or organizations engaged in cybercrime and ransomware, that's unacceptable. If he will not take action against them, we will."
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