The U.S. State Department has designated Cuba's Communist Party leader, Raul Castro, and his immediate family for what Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says is "involvement in gross violations of human rights."
Thursday’s public designation made Castro and his children ineligible for entry into the United States. Castro is no longer the president of Cuba but is still the head of the Communist Party, as Pompeo outlined in a statement.
"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," the statement said.
Raul Castro is the brother of Cuba's late leader, Fidel Castro, and is still considered one of the most powerful figures in the island country.
Pompeo also blamed Castro for undermining Venezuelan democracy and triggering the Western Hemisphere's largest humanitarian crisis, with millions fleeing Venezuela amid widespread shortages of food and medicine.
"As First Secretary of Cuba's Armed Forces, Castro is responsible for Cuba's actions to prop up the former [Nicolas] Maduro regime in Venezuela through violence, intimidation and repression," Pompeo said.
He added: "In concert with Maduro's military and intelligence officers, members of the Cuban security forces have been involved in gross human rights violations and abuses in Venezuela, including torture."
The U.S. and more than 50 other countries support Venezuela's opposition leader, Juan Guaido. Guaido contends Maduro's re-election last year was invalid and wants early presidential elections. Maduro accuses the opposition of fomenting violence, and he still has the support of Cuba, Russia and China.
The U.S. expelled two of Cuba's U.N. diplomats last week, citing "influence operations."
The sanctions on Castro are the latest in a series of measures by the Trump administration to reverse former President Barack Obama's opening to Cuba after 50 years of a U.S. embargo.
US Imposes Travel Ban on Cuba's Castro, Family for Human Rights Violations