WASHINGTON - The Trump administration on Thursday imposed diplomatic sanctions on Cuban Communist Party leader Raul Castro, accusing him of "gross violations of human rights" as it sought to step up pressure on Havana over its support of Venezuela's socialist president, Nicolas Maduro.
In U.S. President Donald Trump's toughest direct action so far against Cuba's communist leadership since taking office in 2017, the United States targeted Castro, Cuba's former president and brother of the late Fidel Castro, as well as family members.
"Castro is responsible for Cuba’s actions to prop up the former Maduro regime in Venezuela through violence, intimidation, and repression," Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement, reiterating the Trump administration's position that Maduro is no longer the legitimate president.
The sanctions will block Castro and his immediate family from entering the United States, Pompeo said. In addition to Castro, the U.S. State Department also sanctioned his children, Alejandro Castro Espin, Deborah Castro Espin, Mariela Castro Espin, and Nilsa Castro Espin.
Pompeo also accused Castro, who is considered Cuba's most powerful figure, of overseeing "a system that arbitrarily detains thousands of Cubans and currently holds more than 100 political prisoners."