Washington bars eight Cuban officials from entering U.S.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken delivers year-end remarks for 2021 and answers questions from news media gathered at the U.S. State Department in Washington, U.S., December 21, 2021. REUTERS/Evelyn Hockstein/Pool

WASHINGTON, Jan 6 (Reuters) - The United States on Thursday barred eight Cuban officials from entering the country over their role in the detention and sentencing of protesters in July demonstrations, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said.

The State Department did not name the officials. Blinken said they are implicated in attempts to silence Cuban people through repression, unjust detentions and harsh prison sentences.

"The United States took steps to enforce visa restrictions in response to Cuban government attempts to deny Cubans their freedom and rights through continued intimidation tactics, unjust imprisonment, and severe sentences," Blinken said.

The largest protests since Fidel Castro's 1959 revolution erupted in Cuba in July amid an economic crisis and surge in COVID-19 infections.

Thousands took to the streets, angry over shortages of basic goods, curbs on civil liberties and the handling of the pandemic. Hundreds of protesters were arrested.

Blinken said 600 protesters remain jailed after the protests, some with no access to proper food or medicine and with worsening health conditions.

Reporting by Daphne Psaledakis and Eric Beech; Editing by Cynthia Osterman

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