(CNN) — US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo must decide whether to approve a plan by State Department officials to classify Cuba as a state sponsor of terrorism, The New York Times reported Tuesday, citing two officials. Americans.
The United States officially removed Cuba from its list of countries that sponsor terrorism in 2015, as part of a brief rapprochement during the Obama years. Redesignating Cuba as a sponsor of terrorism could disrupt President-elect Joe Biden’s possible diplomacy plans with the island and please the Cuban-Americans and other voters who helped President Donald Trump achieve victory in Florida, although he ultimately lost the elections.
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When asked for a response to the newspaper’s report, a State Department spokesman told CNN that “we do not discuss deliberations or possible deliberations on appointments.” The White House declined to comment when contacted by CNN.
The consideration aggravates U.S.-Cuban relations that have reached their lowest point in decades as the incoming Biden administration and the Cuban government seek to reengage after four years of Cold War-era acrimony. Increased sanctions by the Trump administration and the disruption of the tourism industry from the coronavirus pandemic have already hit the island’s struggling economy.
It is unknown whether Pompeo will approve the plan, but a reversal of the measure by the Biden administration could take months, The New York Times reported. Designation as a state sponsor of terrorism can trigger sanctions that include “restrictions on US foreign aid; a ban on defense exports and sales; certain controls on the export of articles; and various financial and other restrictions, “according to the State Department.
US officials told the newspaper that the proposal to re-designate Cuba on the terrorism list came from the State Department’s Office of Western Hemisphere Affairs, as opposed to its Office of Counterterrorism, which would normally be heavily involved to such an extent. . Obama’s former foreign policy adviser, Ben Rhodes, told the newspaper that the divergence from standard planning protocol “is a sign that they know they cannot include Cuba on the list on its merits.”
Ties between Cuba and the United States began to deteriorate in 2017, when the Trump administration not only imposed punitive economic sanctions on the communist government, but also reduced the permission for American citizens to travel to the island. The administration also effectively ended legal remittances sent by Cuban-Americans to family members in Cuba and canceled a wide range of other Obama-era policies, including authorizing U.S. cruise ships to visit the island and Major League Baseball to recruit Cuban players. .
Recent relations between the two countries have been consistently restrictive. Pompeo announced earlier this month that the United States was placing Cuba, as well as the Comoros, Nicaragua and Russia “on a Special Watch List for governments that have engaged in or tolerated” serious violations of religious freedom.
In September, Trump announced a new series of economic sanctions against Cuba that prohibits US citizens from buying Cuban cigars and rum and staying in Cuban government hotels on the island. And in May, the State Department found that Cuba was among the four nations that “did not fully cooperate” with US counterterrorism efforts last year.
Republicans have already voiced resistance to the Biden administration’s anticipated policy in the region, and Senator Marco Rubio has questioned a possible reversal of US policy toward Cuba.
“I think it would be a mistake, frankly, to go back to a policy that didn’t have the intended effect,” Rubio said on NBC 6 earlier this month. “The Cuban army and the Cuban regime were benefiting from it, but not much had changed in the lives of ordinary Cubans, either for their freedoms or for their prosperity.”