The Trump administration plans to add Cuba to a list of state sponsors of terrorism on Monday, said two people familiar with the decision, reversing a signature policy move of the Obama administration and potentially hampering President-elect Joe Biden’s ability to quickly broker a rapprochement with Havana.
A U.S. economic embargo of Cuba already curbs Americans’ ability to do business or visit the communist island. But the new terrorism label could hinder commercial deals with third countries Cuba relies on to import essential goods and turn off foreign investors in its all-important tourism industry.
The decision is just one of several moves by the Trump administration to push through hardline policies championed by influential domestic political constituencies despite the complications they create for State Department lawyers, humanitarian interests abroad and the incoming Biden administration.
Cuba’s addition to the terrorism list has already led officials in Havana to rail against the move. “We condemn a unilateral, absurd, hypocritical and unjust maneuver of the U.S. Administration to include Cuba on their list of state sponsors of terrorism,” Cuban President Manuel Diaz-Canel tweeted on December 31 as talk escalated of Cuba’s inclusion.
The Trump administration has accused Cuba of aiding and abetting President Nicolas Maduro in Venezuela, a socialistautocrat Washington has sought to oust. Even during the pandemic, Cuba’s relationship with the Trump administrationdeteriorated. Cuba’s deployment of its medical brigades to a host of nations facing shortages of medical staffers, including Italy, drew words appreciation from host countries but stiff condemnations by Washington, which accused the Cubans of forcing doctors to work for meager wages.
President Barack Obama announced in 2014 a historic reestablishment of diplomatic ties with Cuba, leading to a 2015 visit that inspired hopes of bringing American investment and visitors back to the communist island that was largely shut off from the U.S. Obama expanded the categories of U.S. nationals who were allowed to visit Cuba, sending tens of thousands of American pouring into Havana.
But President Trump put a halt to these visits when he reinstated barriers on flights and cruise ships. Guided by Miami Cuban Americans, including Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and former National Security Council Senior Director Mauricio Claver-Carone, Trump also limited the number of Cubans allowed to visit the United States.
Biden has signaled his willingness to pick up where Obama left off, focusing on the restoration of flights and remittance privileges removed under Trump. But even if Biden moves to lift Cuba off the terrorism list, it could take months, during which Cuba could suffer substantial economic impacts.
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