Belarus Sanctions Stiffen as Multilateral Pressure Mounts

9 August, the first anniversary of the rigged elections held in Belarus saw a escalation of the sanctions in a coordinated move by the U.S., the U.K., Canada and Switzerland, to hold Belarus President Lukaskenka accountable for his regime’s continuous crackdown on opposition and brutalisation of voices raised for democracy.

The expanded sanctions regime imposes prohibitions on multiple critical sectors. Restrictions put in force by each country similarly prohibit trading in financial instruments, transferable securities, credits, insurances, commercial papers Belarus or a Belarussian authority, Belarusbank, Belinvestbank, Belagroprombank. Vital Belarusian industries, from transportation to construction, tobacco products to petroleum, security to potassium chloride came under scrutiny.

In pursuant of the U.S. President Joe Biden’s executive order expanding the scope of sanctions on Belarus, the U.S. Treasury designated 23 individuals and 21 entities which included, unprecedentedly, the Belarusian National Olympic committee (NOC) which the treasury defined the as a tool for Lukashenka to circumvent restrictions.

The choice of sectors, including potash, demonstrate a continuous commitment on part of the U.S. the U.K. and the EU, to focus on Belarus President Lukashenka’s “crony capitalism”, family members, oligarchs who benefit from his power. Belaruskali OAO, a leading potash producer has been known to fill the coffers of Lukashenka’s government, is among sanctioned entities.

The Swiss and E.U. sanctioning the sales or transfer of software and tech for “telecoms interpretation and monitoring” – in addition to embargoes on arms and possible instruments for internal repression – reminds the crucial power of new technology in quelling dissent and how it can be made a dystopian surveillance instrument in the hands of governments.

In 2020, Synesis LLC, the famous Belarussian monitoring and facial recognition was hit by EU sanctions, on the grounds of deploying its tech solutions to the regime in order to identify dissidents and protesters. A company with a nebulous fact sheet, Synesis was on its way to secure an international market presence by the time it was made target by the E.U. sanctioning authorities.

Among the industries at the crosshairs of reinforced sanctions rests the Belarussian state enterprise tobacco firm GTF Neman, purveyor of cheap tobacco and related products flooding the European market, which also produced cigarettes under British American Tobacco license.

The FAQ addendum to the Executive Order makes clear that the identification of industries do not indicate a blanket sanction on actors operating in the sectors specified, and only persons designated on OFAC’s SDN list and entities owned by the designated are the subject of sanctions.

U.S. Treasury Sanctioned Cuban Officials linked to suppressing July protests

Friday, August 13, The U.S. Treasury Department sanctioned two Cuban interior ministry officials and a military unit, as hundreds remain detained following protests last month on the island.

 

In response to the Cuban regime brutally cracking down dissidents, and adopting long-arm measures to “curb the flow of information”, the U.S. Treasury sanctioned  Romarico Vidal Sotomayor Garcia (Sotomayor), chief of the Cuban Ministry of the Interior (MININT) political directorate, and Pedro Orlando Martinez Fernandez (Martinez), who leads the political directorate of Cuban Ministry of Revolutionary Armed Forces (MINFAR). Sotomayor and Martinez have been instrumental in deploying security personnel to suppress peaceful demonstrators. The MININT, on the other hand, was previously designated, for being implicit in “serious human rights abuse”, pursuant to the Executive Order of 13818 on Jan 15, 2021.

 

All property and interests of the designated individuals will continue to be blocked.

 

While the comprehensive U.S. embargo on Cuba prevails, the sanctions followed the release of a fact sheet that elaborated exemptions to the embargo, in assistance of the Cuban people’s “right to seek, receive and impart information through safe and secure access to the internet” last week. OFAC and BIS License Exemptions to the embargo allow the provision, export and reexport of telecom devices, mobile phones, receivers, in-country servicing of internet provides, online distance learning and educational training, consumer communications devices and information materials in support of the Cuban people.

 

The boom in internet use was a factor that powered the protests and the government had shut down access and restricted messaging platforms to curb dissident voices.