By Michael Jarvis
In a first indication of where his policies on Cuba might be heading, President Joe Biden has slapped sanctions on senior Cuban government and police officials in response to the government's crackdown on recent protests.
"There will be more, unless there's some drastic change in Cuba, which I don't anticipate," Mr Biden said, adding that “the United States is taking concerted action to bolster the cause of the Cuban people."
The announcement of the sanctions came at a meeting between the president and Cuban-American leaders at the White House.
The protests in Cuba have been directed at the government over worsening economic and conditions and concerns over the spread of COVID-19.
The Cuban economy has been under added strain since the re-imposition of selected economic sanctions by the former Trump administration, which had been previously relaxed under the Obama presidency in which Mr Biden served as Vice-President.
The wider scope of the US trade embargo remains in place, described as the most enduring trade embargo in modern history.
Protesters have also been demanding vaccines against the COVID-19 which is spreading in Cuba. The Cuban government is developing two vaccines that are going through the trial phase and are expected to be available to the public later this year.
From the time he took office and began over-turning many of the Trump policies, expectation has been high about President Biden’s foreign policy plans for Cuba.
Following this first direct action against the Cuban government, Mr Biden has said he is also considering reinstating remittance payments from Cuban-Americans to their relatives in Cuba without the Cuban government’s involvement in the process.
He accused the government in Havana of profiting from the transactions and called Cuba “a failed state”.
In a response to the effects of the sanctions reimposed by former president Trump, the Cuban government has put in place a number of measures including steps to control the flow of money into and out of the country.
It triggered a series of protests in which thousands took to the streets, angry over shortages of basic goods, curbs on civil liberties, and the authorities' handling of the pandemic.
Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel has blamed the unrest on the United States, saying many protesters were sincere but manipulated by U.S.-orchestrated social media campaigns.
Experts say with Florida's 1.5 million Cuban Americans voting heavily for Republican Donald Trump in the 2020 presidential election, winning back their support is crucial for Mr Biden's Democratic Party to clinch the swing state in the 2024 presidential election.