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.

5:01 P.M. EDT

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