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U.S. blacklists 7 Cuban companies, jeopardizing U.S. remittances

June 3 (UPI) -- The Trump administration on Wednesday blacklisted seven Cuban companies including the financial institution that handles U.S. remittances to the communist nation.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced the seven Cuban military-controlled companies were added to the Cuba Restricted List, barring Americans from doing business them.

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Among those blackballed Wednesday include Fincimex, which Western Union uses to send remittances from Americans to their Cuban families.

Pompeo said it was included with the six other entities to "help address the regime's attempts to control the flow of hard currency that belongs to the Cuban people."

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"We will continue to stop the flow of money into the pockets of those who oppress the Cuban people," he tweeted. "61 years of oppression and dictatorship are enough. To the Cuban people: you deserve better and we stand with you."

Ricardo Herrero, the executive director of the Cuba Study Group, lambasted the move as "inhumane and the height of hypocrisy" to say they stand with the Cuban people while cutting them off from needed funds amid a pandemic in order to deny the Communist government the revenue earned from a less than 15 percent tax on such monies.

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"The Cuban people should absolutely have the freedom to decide what to do with remittances sent by their loved ones. But by sanctioning the state entity that channels & taxes those funds [without] providing an alternative, the Trump admin threatens to cut off all formal remittances," he tweeted.

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Being unable to use Fincimex, Cubans will resort to third-market transfer agencies and it will incentivize money laundering, he said. "Not to mention pile on even greater hardship of the Cuban people who this farcical policy pretends to 'support.'"

In October of last year, the Trump administration re-capped remittances to $1,000 per quarter. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said then in a statement the move was being taken to "financially isolate" the Cuban regime.

"Through these regulatory amendments, Treasury is denying Cuba access to hard currency, and we are curbing the Cuban government's bad behavior while continuing to support the long-suffering people of Cuba," he said.

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The Obama administration had lifted all restrictions on remittances and family travel to Cuba in 2009 as part of a then-U.S. policy shift toward the Caribbean nation that has experienced a reversal under President Donald Trump.

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The other Cuban military-controlled companies sanctioned Wednesday include three hotels, two scuba diving centers and a marine park.

"The Cuban people deserve democratic government, freedom of speech and religion or belief, economic prosperity and respect for human rights," Pompeo said in a statement. "The United States stands with the Cuban people as you struggle to achieve this vision and look forward to the day when the dream of freedom becomes reality."

Bruno Rodriguez Parrilla, Cuba's Minister of Foreign Affairs, rejected the sanctions Wednesday, stating they aim to harm Cuban families.

"Tightening the blockade during COVID-19 is both shameful and criminal," he tweeted.

The announcement comes on the 89th birthday of Raul Castro, the leader of the Cuban government.

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