Jan. 11 (UPI) — The U.S. State Department announced Monday that it was redesignating Cuba as a state sponsor of terrorism, further reversing a 2015 Obama-era campaign to improve relations in between the two countries.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced the move in the final days of the Trump administration, blaming Cuba “for repeatedly providing support for acts of international terrorism in granting safe harbor to terrorists.”
Pompeo said the Cuban government engaged in “malign interference in Venezuela and the rest of the Western Hemisphere.”
The move will penalize U.S. companies for making business deals in Cuba and also restricts U.S. foreign assistance, bans defense exports and sales, and imposes controls on some exports, the State Department said.
The late-term move to return Cuba to a pariah state was criticized as a way for departing Trump officials to throw a wrench into the incoming Biden administration’s stated goals for a “reset” to normalize relations with Havana.
“Secretary Pompeo has self-righteously defended Donald Trump‘s worst foreign policy failures, and on his way out the door he seems intent on making things as difficult as possible for his successor,” Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., said in a statement Monday.
Cuba’s Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez called the move “political opportunism” in a tweet.
Biden served as vice president during the Obama administration, which removed Cuba from the terrorism list in 2015 as part of an overall campaign to improve business and political ties to the island nation.
Currently, the only countries on the state department’s terrorism blacklist are Iran, Syria and North Korea. Sudan was removed in 2020 as part of the Trump administration’s peace agreements brokered in the Middle East.