US designates Cuba as 'State Sponsor of Terrorism'

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A car runs on a street in Havana, Cuba, Oct. 5, 2020. [Photo/Xinhua]

The United States added Cuba to the list of "State Sponsor of Terrorism" on Monday, a move to constrain the incoming Joe Biden administration's efforts to improve relations with Havana.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement that Cuba was designated for "repeatedly providing support for acts of international terrorism in granting safe harbor to terrorists."

The statement cited that Cuba harbored several U.S. fugitives from justice and supported Venezuela's Nicolas Maduro government that "created a permissive environment for international terrorists to live and thrive within Venezuela."

According to the statement, the designation would result in sanctions that penalize persons and countries engaging in certain trade with Cuba, restricts U.S. foreign assistance, bans defense exports and sales, and imposes certain controls on exports of dual-use items.

In addition to Cuba, the State Department currently lists Syria, Iran, and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea as state sponsors of terrorism.

The action by the outgoing administration of Donald Trump has immediately drawn condemnation from Cuba and Democrats at home.

"We condemn the U.S. announced hypocritical and cynical designation of #Cuba as a State sponsoring terrorism. The U.S. political opportunism is recognized by those who are honestly concerned about the scourge of terrorism and its victims," Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez tweeted.

Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy in a statement blasted the move as a "blatantly politicized designation."

"In fact, domestic terrorism in the United States poses a far greater threat to Americans than Cuba does. 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," he said.

President-elect Joe Biden previously slammed Trump's policies on Cuba, saying he would "try to reverse the failed Trump policies that inflicted harm on Cubans and their families."

In October, Biden said that the United States needed a new Cuba policy, though it remained unclear how quickly Biden would implement his policy on the island.

Cuba had been put on the list of state sponsors of terrorism in 1982. In May 2015, then Barack Obama administration officially removed Cuba from the list, clearing a major obstacle to reestablishing diplomatic ties between the former Cold War rivals.

Bilateral ties have significantly deteriorated since Trump took office in 2017. The Trump administration rolled back the detente by stepping up economic sanctions against Cuba and sought to prevent Havana's support to the Maduro government, which Washington is openly seeking to oust from power.

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