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US sanctions powerful Cuban general and former son-in-law of Raúl Castro

US Treasury Dept. has sanctioned a cuban general. (Dreamstime/TNS)

The United States on Wednesday sanctioned Gen. Luis Alberto Rodríguez López-Calleja, the former son-in-law of Cuban leader Raúl Castro who manages most of the Cuban economy as head of the powerful conglomerate of military companies GAESA.

The Treasury Department included López-Calleja on the list of specially designated nationals and blocked persons. The listing freezes all of his assets in the U.S. or under the control of U.S. persons. Individuals and companies under U.S. jurisdiction are prohibited from dealing with him.

GAESA, or Grupo de Administración Empresarial S.A., is the economic arm of the Revolutionary Armed Forces. It controls more than 50 companies in the country’s most lucrative sectors, such as tourism, remittances, financial services, supermarkets, chain stores, real estate, gas stations, import and export, shipping and construction.

“The revenue generated from the economic activities of GAESA is used to oppress the Cuban people and to fund Cuba’s parasitic, colonial domination of Venezuela,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said. “Today’s action demonstrates the United States’ long-standing commitment to ending economic practices that disproportionately benefit the Cuban government or its military, intelligence, and security agencies or personnel at the expense of the Cuban and Venezuelan people.”

President Donald Trump banned direct transactions with GAESA and most of its affiliated companies in a memorandum signed in June 2017 in Miami. Recently, the administration sanctioned Fincimex and AIS, two companies under GAESA’s control involved in the business of remittances to Cuba.

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Last year, the United States also imposed individual sanctions against Raúl Castro, his children and the Cuban minister of the interior.

López-Callejas was reportedly married to a daughter of Raúl Castro and was a strong contender for the newly created post of Prime Minister of Cuba. Although he was not named, he exerted his influence to place Manuel Marrero as prime minister, a military man who was in charge of Gaviota, a tourism chain that is part of GAESA.

In September 2018, López-Callejas traveled to New York as part of the delegation that accompanied Cuban leader Miguel Díaz-Canel in his first appearance at the United Nations General Assembly. The general also accompanied Díaz-Canel to a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in October of that year.

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© 2020 Miami Herald

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.