US hits Cuba with new terrorism sanctions

Matthew Lee
·1-min read

The Trump administration has re-designated Cuba as a "state sponsor of terrorism" in a move that hits the country with new sanctions shortly before President-elect Joe Biden takes office.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced the step, citing in particular Cuba's continued harbouring of US fugitives as well as its support for Venezuelan leader Nicolas Maduro.

The designation is one of the latest in a series of last-minute moves the Trump administration is making before Biden takes office on January 20.

Removing Cuba from the blacklist had been one of former president Barack Obama's main foreign policy achievements as he sought better relations with the communist island, an effort endorsed by Biden as his vice-president.

Ties had been essentially frozen after Fidel Castro took power in 1959.

As he has with Iran, Trump has sought to reverse many of Obama's decisions involving Cuba. He has taken a tough line on Havana and rolled back many of the sanctions that the Obama administration had eased or lifted after the restoration of full diplomatic relations in 2015.

As well as attacking Cuba for its support of Maduro, the Trump administration has also suggested that Cuba may have been behind or allowed alleged attacks that left dozens of US diplomats in Havana with brain injuries starting in late 2016.

However, few US allies believe Cuba remains a sponsor of international terrorism, quibbling with either the definition based on the support for Maduro or outright rejecting American claims that Cuban authorities are bankrolling or masterminding international terrorist attacks.

The latest reinstated sanctions include major restrictions that will bar most travel from the US to Cuba and transfer of money between the two countries.