Trump Admin Declares Cuba State Sponsor of Terror, Reversing Obama’s “Cuban Thaw”
The Trump administration announced Monday that Cuba would be added to the state sponsor of terror list, undoing former President Barack Obama’s decision to remove Cuba from the same list and expand trading opportunities between the communist country and the United States.
“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 U.S. justice,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement announcing the policy shift, which was first reported by Bloomberg.
The move to add Cuba to the list comes as President Trump has gone on a spree of foreign policy changes ahead of the inauguration of Joe Biden.
From Yahoo News:
The Trump administration has issued a blizzard of sanctions and other policy steps since the Nov. 3 election, with many seemingly aimed at stymieing Biden’s foreign policy priorities or otherwise complicating his first days in office. Late Sunday evening, for example, the State Department announced it would designate an Iranian-backed rebel group as a terrorist group, which critics fear could make it harder for aid groups to deliver humanitarian assistance to war-torn Yemen.
The Cuba policy shift is one final hardline decision that likely will please Trump’s Republican base in Florida, where Cuban Americans overwhelmingly supported him. And it’s a slap at Biden, who struggled to win over Hispanic voters in that key swing state.
A Biden transition team official told Yahoo News that Biden would be reviewing all of the new policies when he takes office.“The transition team is reviewing each one, and the incoming administration will render a verdict based exclusively on one criterion: the national interest,” the official said.
Democratic Rep. Gregory Meeks said he would be urging Biden to reverse the Trump decision:
“For four years, the Trump Administration’s policy towards Cuba has been focused on hurting the Cuban people – from drastically reducing remittances in the middle of a pandemic to limiting the ability of Americans to travel to the island,” Meeks said. “It is essential that the state sponsor of terrorism list be used judiciously to maintain its seriousness and integrity and that a country is never added to the list unless it meets the legal standard. I urge President-elect Biden to add the reversal of today’s foreign policy failure to his long ‘to do’ list when he takes office.”
But Pompeo cited Cuba’s lack of cooperation in extraditing members of a Colombian rebel group, the National Liberation Army, as reason for the policy shift. “Citing peace negotiation protocols, Cuba has refused Colombia’s requests to extradite ten ELN leaders living in Havana after the group claimed responsibility for the January 2019 bombing of a Bogota police academy that killed 22 people and injured more than 87 others,” Pompeo said.. “Cuba also harbors several U.S. fugitives from justice wanted on or convicted of charges of political violence, many of whom have resided in Cuba for decades.”
Obama ordered the restoration of full diplomatic relations with the communist country in late 2014 in an attempt to “cut loose the shackles of the past.”
“We will end an outdated approach that for decades has failed to advance our interests, and instead we will begin to normalize relations between our two countries,” Obama said in a statement announcing the new policy. The deal, he added, will “begin a new chapter among the nations of the Americas” and move beyond a “rigid policy that is rooted in events that took place before most of us were born.”
Trump has largely rolled back much of the Obama-era policies, something that earned him the ire of Biden on the campaign trail last year.
“The administration’s approach is not working,” Biden said during a Florida campaign stop. “Cuba is no closer to democracy than it was four years ago.”