Trump administration labels Cuba as ‘state sponsor of terrorism’

Observers say move in final days of Donald Trump’s administration will complicate Joe Biden’s foreign policy plans.

People buy vegetables at a street stall in Havana, Cuba on December 29, 2020 [File: Stringer/Reuters[

The United States has designated Cuba as a “state sponsor of terrorism”, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced, the latest move in the final days of the Trump administration that observers say will complicate President-elect Joe Biden’s foreign policy plans.

In a statement on Monday, Pompeo said the US was designating Cuba “for repeatedly providing support for acts of international terrorism in granting safe harbor to terrorists”.

He also accused Cuba of asserting “malign interference in Venezuela and the rest of the Western Hemisphere”.

“With this action, we will once again hold Cuba’s government accountable and send a clear message: the Castro regime must end its support for international terrorism and subversion of US justice,” Pompeo said.

Biden, who is set to be inaugurated on January 20, plans to move Washington closer to normalised relations with Havana, Bloomberg reported earlier this month – including easing restrictions on travel, investment and remittances.

Biden served as vice president under then-President Barack Obama when the US and Cuba restored diplomatic relations in 2015.

Earlier that same year, Obama had removed Cuba from the US list of “state sponsors of terrorism” – a key step in the nations’ ability to formally mend ties.

But President Donald Trump’s administration has applied pressure on the Cuban government and various industries in the country.

The US recently added a Cuban bank to its restricted entities list, alleging that the financial institution had ties to the Cuban military and its profits helped fund the country’s “interference” in Venezuela.

Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez rejected the US’ “state sponsor of terrorism” designation on Monday, calling the move “hypocritical and cynical”.

“The US political opportunism is recognized by those who are honestly concerned about the scourge of terrorism and its victims,” he tweeted.

Ben Rhodes, Obama’s former deputy national security adviser, slammed Pompeo’s announcement as “politicised garbage meant to tie the hands of an administration that takes power in ten days”.

“Cuba is not a state sponsor of terrorism,” Rhodes tweeted.

In practice, the Cuba designation will “penalize persons and countries engaging in certain trade with Cuba”, Pompeo said in the statement.

The move also “restricts U.S. foreign assistance, bans defense exports and sales, and imposes certain controls on exports of dual use items”.

Source: Al Jazeera