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Friday, January 15, 2021

Trump hits Cuba with new terrorism sanctions in waning days

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Trump administration on Monday re-designated Cuba as a “state sponsor of terrorism,” hitting the nation with new sanctions that would hamstring President-elect Joe Biden’s promise to resume relations with the communist-governed island.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo introduced the step, citing particularly Cuba’s continued harboring of U.S. fugitives, its refusal to extradite a coterie of Colombian guerrilla commanders in addition to its help for Venezuelan chief Nicolás Maduro.

The designation, which had been mentioned for years, is one in every of a number of last-minute overseas coverage strikes that the Trump administration is making earlier than Biden takes workplace Jan. 20.

Eradicating Cuba from the blacklist had been one in every of former President Barack Obama’s important overseas coverage achievements as he sought higher relations with the island, an effort endorsed by Biden as his vice chairman. Ties had been basically frozen after Fidel Castro took energy in 1959.

As he has with Iran, Trump has sought to reverse lots of Obama’s selections involving Cuba. He has taken a troublesome line on Havana and rolled again most of the sanctions that the Obama administration had eased or lifted after the restoration of full diplomatic relations in 2015.

Since Trump took workplace, after a marketing campaign that attacked Obama’s strikes to normalize relations with Cuba, ties have been more and more strained.

Along with attacking Cuba for its help of Maduro, the Trump administration has additionally prompt that Cuba could have been behind or allowed alleged sonic assaults that left dozens of U.S. diplomats in Havana with mind accidents beginning in late 2016.

Nonetheless, few U.S, allies imagine Cuba stays a sponsor of worldwide terrorism, quibbling with both the definition based mostly on the help for Maduro or outright rejecting American claims that Cuban authorities are bankrolling or masterminding worldwide terrorist assaults.

Cuban International Minister Bruno Rodriguez condemned the U.S. motion. “The US political opportunism is acknowledged by those that are truthfully involved in regards to the scourge of terrorism and its victims,” he stated on Twitter.

Rep. Gregory Meeks, the brand new chairman of the Home International Affairs Committee, stated Trump’s designation wouldn’t assist the Cuban individuals and seeks solely to tie the fingers of the Biden administration.

“This designation of Cuba as a state sponsor of terrorism with lower than per week to go in his presidency and after he incited a home terror assault on the U.S. Capital … that’s hypocrisy,” Meeks stated in an interview with The Related Press.

Nonetheless, cheered on by Cuban American and Venezuelan exiles in south Florida, the Trump administration has steadily elevated restrictions on flights, commerce and monetary transactions between the U.S. and the island.

The newest sanctions put Cuba alongside North Korea, Syria and Iran as the one overseas nations deemed state sponsors of terrorism. On account of Monday’s actions, most journey from the U.S. to Cuba can be barred in addition to the sending of remittances to Cuba from kin in the USA, a major supply of revenue for the impoverished island.

However with dollar-generating enterprise already reeling from the results of the coronavirus and former measures like Trump’s ban on cruise ships and cap on remittances, the largest affect will doubtless be diplomatic.

“It will actually sluggish any thaw in relations with the Biden administration,” stated Emilio Morales, an exiled Cuban economist and president of the Miami-based Havana Consulting Group.

Morales stated unwinding the measure will take a minimum of a yr and require cautious research by the U.S. authorities. He’s additionally uncertain whether or not Biden, who performed no vital function within the Obama administration’s opening to Cuba, can be keen to take a position the form of political capital Obama did and throw a lifeline to Cuba’s management with out something in return.

Obama’s removing of Cuba from the “state sponsors of terrorism” record had been a significant goal of Trump, Pompeo and different Cuba hawks within the present administration.

Cuba has repeatedly refused to show over U.S. fugitives which were granted asylum, together with a black militant convicted of killing a New Jersey state trooper within the 1970s. Along with political refugee standing, U.S. fugitives have obtained free housing, well being care and different advantages because of Cuba’s authorities, which insists the U.S. has no “authorized or ethical foundation” to demand their return.

However maybe the largest change since Obama’s outreach in 2015 is Cuba’s robust help for Maduro, who is taken into account by the a dictator whose pilfering of the oil-based economic system has pushed 5 million Venezuelans from their houses.

Cuba has had a long-standing alliance with Maduro, though it has lengthy denied it has 20,000 troops and intelligence brokers in Venezuela and says it has not carried out any safety operations. Cuban officers, nonetheless, have stated they’ve the suitable to hold out broad navy and intelligence cooperation that they deem as professional.

The connection between the 2 international locations has grown robust up to now twenty years, with Venezuela sending Cuba oil shipments value billions of {dollars} and receiving tens of hundreds of workers, together with medical employees.

In Might 2020, the State Division added Cuba to an inventory of nations that don’t cooperate with U.S. counter-terrorism applications.

In making that dedication, the division stated a number of leaders of the Nationwide Liberation Military, a Colombian insurgent group designated a terrorist group, remained on the island regardless of Colombia’s repeated request they be extradited to reply for the 2019 automobile bombing of a police academy in Bogota that killed 22 individuals.

Cuba has rejected such requests, saying that turning over the leaders would violate protocols agreed to by Colombia’s authorities for peace efforts that had been damaged off after the lethal bombing.

In repudiating the allegations, President Miguel Díaz-Canel has stated Cuba was the sufferer of terrorism. He cited an armed assault on its embassy in Washington final April as one instance. Cubans see the blacklist as serving to the U.S. justify the long-standing embargo on the island and different financial sanctions which have crippled its economic system.

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Related Press diplomatic author Matthew Lee reported this story in Washington and AP author Joshua Goodman reported from Miami. AP author Andrea Rodriguez in Havana contributed to this report.

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