By Beyza Binnur Donmez
ANKARA (AA) - Cuban President Raul Castro and his four children were sanctioned Thursday by the U.S. for alleged human rights violations.
"The [State] Department is publicly designating Raul Modesto Castro Ruz, the First Secretary of the Central Committee of the Cuban Communist Party and First Secretary of the Cuban Revolutionary Armed Forces ... due to his involvement in gross violations of human rights," U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement.
Pompeo said his office has "credible information that foreign government officials have been involved in significant corruption or a gross violation of human rights, those individuals and their immediate family members are ineligible for entry into the United States."
"As First Secretary of the Cuban Communist Party, Raul Castro oversees a system that arbitrarily detains thousands of Cubans and currently holds more than 100 political prisoners.
"As First Secretary of Cuba’s Armed Forces, Castro is responsible for Cuba’s actions to prop up the former Maduro regime in Venezuela through violence, intimidation, and repression," Pompeo said.
He accused members of Cuban security forces of being involved in "in gross human rights violations and abuses in Venezuela, including torture" along with Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro's military and intelligence officers.
"Castro is complicit in undermining Venezuela’s democracy and triggering the hemisphere’s largest humanitarian crisis, forcing 15 percent of the Venezuelan population to flee the country and precipitating a food shortage and health crisis of unprecedented scale in this region," Pompeo said.
The U.S. no longer recognizes Maduro as the legitimate president of Venezuela, instead throwing its weight behind opposition leader Juan Guaido whom it recognizes as the country's interim president.
Washington has been focusing on economic and diplomatic pressure against Venezuela, imposing sanctions on Maduro and top officials as well as several governmental departments as it seeks the president's resignation.
Cuba, along with Bolivia and Mexico, have thrown support behind Maduro.
Since the beginning of this year, Venezuela has been embroiled in political unrest as Maduro and Guaido engage in a struggle for leadership amid a dire economic crisis in the Latin American nation.
Nearly 5,000 people exit Venezuela every day due to instability and uncertainty amid the economic and political crisis, with 3 million having left since 2015, according to the UN refugee agency.