The United States Department of Religious Freedom has said it ‘will not stand still’ in the face of suppression of religious freedom.
The United States has added Latin American enemies Cuba and Nicaragua and Russia’s Wagner Group to its list of international religious freedom sanctions, paving the way for sanctions.
“All over the world, governments and non-governmental organizations torture, intimidate, imprison, and even kill people because of their beliefs,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Friday.
“The United States will not stand by this atrocity.”
Wagner’s group was being singled out for intervening in violence in the Central African Republic, where almost 10 years of religiously motivated bloodshed have taken place.
A Russian mercenary group has been involved in Mali and has been accused of violating rights in Libya, Syria and Ukraine.
Cuba and Nicaragua were both recently designated as “Most Affected Countries” under the annual sanctions, meaning the two leftist-led countries – previously under US sanctions – could face further sanctions.
Nicaragua’s increasingly authoritarian president, Daniel Ortega, has denounced the Catholic Church since accusing it of supporting anti-government protests in 2018, which were crushed and killed hundreds of people.
The election of Cuba is the latest sign of the island by the administration of President Joe Biden, who rejected the efforts of the former Democratic President Barack Obama to open with the enemies of the US.
In its latest annual report on religious freedom released in June, the State Department cited violence and arrests of religious groups in Cuba due to frequent protests and bans on unrecognized Protestant churches.
“These actions represent a change in practice and tolerance for violations of religious freedom, which is the foundation of the name,” State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters.
Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez rejected the US registration, calling it “unsustainable” and “dishonest”.
“It is known that there is freedom of religion in Cuba,” said Rodriguez.
The inclusion of our country in the illegal list shows that, once again, the US government has to use fraud cases to maintain the illegal laws that persecute the Cuban people.
It is known that in #Cuba Of course there is freedom of religion.
– Bruno Rodriguez P (@BrunoRguezP) December 2, 2022
Blinken maintained the list of Most Affected Countries from 2021 – China, Eritrea, Iran, Myanmar, North Korea, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan.
There is no action on the incoming partners
As expected, nothing was done against India, which the United States saw as a major future ally.
The decision ignores the opinion of the independent US Commission on International Religious Freedom, which said that the treatment of minorities has “increased” under the Hindu government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The commission said it was “outraged” that Blinken failed to list India or Nigeria despite a State Department report showing “serious violations of religious freedom” in both countries.
India had previously expressed outrage at the State Department’s annual report, which listed false comments by Indian officials and allegations of discrimination against Muslims and Christians.
CAR, Vietnam on the watch list
Blinken added the Central African Republic to the watch list, meaning it will be designated among the Most Affected Countries without further progress.
Another recent addition to the list was Vietnam, where a State Department report said communist authorities persecuted unidentified religious groups, including Christian house churches, independent Buddhists, and members of the century-old Cao Dai movement.
Algeria and Comoros remain on the watch list from 2021.