The Trump administration has reinstated Cuba to a list of state sponsors of terrorism, a move that will complicate US President-elect Joe Biden’s efforts to establish closer relations with the Communist-ruled island.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo accused the Cuban government of supporting assassins, bombers and hijackers, and harboring American fugitives, among other actions.
“With this action, we will once again hold the Cuban government accountable and send a clear message: the Castro regime must end its support for international terrorism and the subversion of American justice,” Pompeo said Monday. in a press release.
Critics condemned the move as the outgoing president’s latest attempt to hamper the wiggle room of Biden’s incoming team when he takes office on January 20. The Trump administration broke with the convention last month by recognize the sovereignty of Morocco in the disputed territory of Western Sahara.
During the weekend Mr Pompeo abandoned long-standing guidelines that limit contact with Taiwanese officials and separately designate Yemen’s Houthi rebels as a terrorist organization, a move some fear will complicate efforts to resolve the conflict in the Middle East.
Until Monday’s announcement, only three countries had been named by Washington as sponsor states for terrorism: Iran, Syria and North Korea. The designation typically triggers restrictions on US foreign aid, a ban on defense exports, controls on exports of dual-use items, and financial restrictions.
“This is absurd and they know it,” said Joe Garcia, a former Democratic congressman and Cuba expert who recently visited the island. “I think what Biden is going to do is keep the beat [with a rapprochement]. I don’t think the executive orders of a lawless president will hinder what makes sense for American foreign policy.
Nonetheless, Garcia admitted the designation would “do Cuba a little bit of harm” by increasing pressure on Havana at a sensitive time, as the government grapples with its deepest economic crisis since the fall of its government. main sponsor, the Soviet Union in 1991.
Miguel Díaz-Canel, President of Cuba, announced last month that he was abandoning a dual currency system and bring about a wave of economic reforms due to the crisis.
Cuba was first put on the list of sponsor states for terrorism in 1982 under President Ronald Reagan because of what Washington has declared to be Havana’s long-standing support for Latin American guerrilla groups.
The designation was withdrawn by Barack Obama in 2015 as part of a broader rapprochement with Havana, which led to the reopening of the US embassy, the lifting of some economic sanctions and the first US presidential visit to the island since the 1959 revolution.
Most of these movements were reversed under Mr. Trump, who has pursued a policy of “maximum pressure” sanctions on the island, adding more punitive measures to those still in place in an attempt to topple the Communist government.
Monday’s announcement was widely anticipated. The process of adding a country to the list of terrorism sponsors requires an interagency review and typically takes several months, which means Mr Biden could find it difficult to quickly turn back the clock.
However, the Trump administration’s hard line in Havana proved politically popular with Cuban and Venezuelan emigrants in South Florida and helped bring big electoral advantages to Republicans in the November presidential and legislative elections. . Mr. Garcia described it as part of “the subversion of all American politics into a ridiculous political game.”