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US imposes sanctions on Cuba defense chief

January 3, 2020

The United States has banned General Leopoldo Cintra Frias and his children from entering the country. The State Department cited support for "cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment" of Venezuelans.

Minister of the Cuban Revolutionary Armed Forces, Leopoldo Cintra Frias in Moscow in Nov. 2018.
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/TASS/V. Savitsky

The State Department on Thursday announced that it was banning Cuba's defense minister from entering the United States, citing alleged human rights violations and his backing of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement that Washington had blacklisted General Leopoldo Cintra Frias, minister of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Cuba (MINFAR), and his children, Deborah Cintra Gonzalez and Leopoldo Cintra Gonzalez, due to the defense chief's support of Maduro. 

"Alongside Maduro's military and intelligence officers, MINFAR has been involved in gross human rights violations and abuses in Venezuela, including torturing or subjecting Venezuelans to cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment or punishment for their anti-Maduro stances."

Read more:US Secretary of State Pompeo blames Cuba for Venezuelan regime 

The statement also cites alleged efforts to dismantle Venezuela's democracy "by terrifying Venezuelans into submission."

"We will promote accountability for those who abuse human rights, wherever they reside," Pompeo tweeted.

This is not the first time that the US has sanctioned a Cuban official over support for Maduro. In September, the State Department banned travel to the US by Cuban Communist Party head and former President Raul Castro, the younger brother of longtime leader Fidel Castro. The department also blacklisted the former president's four children. 

Read moreBolivia cuts ties with Venezuela, orders Cuban doctors to leave

The US recognizes Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido as the legitimate interim leader of Venezuela, but Cuba, as well as Russia and China, continues to support Maduro, whose presidency has been contested since the start of last year.

Maduro's second inauguration, on January 10 last year, was met with violent protests across Venezuela. The protests continued through November.

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lc/dr (Reuters, AFP)