USA puts Cuba on terrorism blacklist again

Donald Trump

The Trump administration announced Monday that it was returning Cuba to the US list of state sponsors of terrorism, a move that could complicate any efforts by the incoming Biden administration to revive Obama-era easing of strained relations with Havana.

Pompeo said Cuba was being blacklisted again for "repeatedly providing support for acts of global terrorism" as well as harboring USA fugitives and Colombian rebel leaders.

President-elect Joe Biden, who takes office on 20 January, has previously said he wants to improve US-Cuban relations.

Since Obama's decision to remove Cuba, reports have repeatedly indicated that Cuba has direct ties to the Shiite jihadist organization Hezbollah, including reports linking Cuban funding to the creation of Venezuelan passport machines that ultimately created fraudulent documentation for Hezbollah members from the Middle East.

Trump has reversed many of Obama's overtures to Cuba and also imposed sanctions on its leftist ally Venezuela, a stance that helped win support among immigrant communities in Florida, a crucial state in U.S. elections. "The Castro regime must end its support for worldwide terrorism and subversion of USA justice".

The latest sanctions reinstated by the Trump administration include major restrictions that will bar most travel from the U.S. to Cuba and transfer of money between the two countries, a significant source of income for Cubans who have relatives in the United States.

"The political opportunism of this act is recognized by everyone who has a genuince concern for the scourge of terrorism and its victims".

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Rep. Gregory Meeks, the new chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said Trump's designation would not help the Cuban people and seeks only to tie the hands of the Biden administration.

Countries on the list of state sponsors of terrorism are subject to "restrictions on US foreign assistance; a ban on defense exports and sales; certain controls over exports of dual use items; and miscellaneous financial and other restrictions", according to the State Department.

The reinstated sanctions also include major restrictions barring most travel between the USA and Cuba.

Cuba rejoins just three other countries on the list of state sponsors of terrorism - Iran, North Korea and Syria. In addition to political refugee status, U.S. fugitives have received free housing, health care and other benefits thanks to Cuba's government, which insists the United States has no "legal or moral basis" to demand their return.

But with dollar-generating business already reeling from the effects of the coronavirus and previous measures like Trump's ban on cruise ships and cap on remittances, the biggest impact will likely be diplomatic.

Cuban and American flags in Havana, on September 20, 2018.

Morales said unwinding the measure will take at least a year and require careful study by the US government.

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