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U.S. sanctions imports of Cuban cigars, rum

U.S. President Donald Trump delivers remarks in honor of Bay of Pigs veterans and on new Cuba restrictions at the White House in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday. Pool photo by Yuri Gripas/UPI
U.S. President Donald Trump delivers remarks in honor of Bay of Pigs veterans and on new Cuba restrictions at the White House in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday. Pool photo by Yuri Gripas/UPI | License Photo

Sept. 24 (UPI) -- In a move to deny Havana of U.S. currency, The Trump administration imposed new sanctions against Cuba, banning U.S. citizens from staying at government-owned hotels and importing Cuban alcohol and tobacco products.

"These actions will ensure that U.S. dollars do not fund the Cuban regime and go directly to the Cuban People," President Donald Trump said Wednesday in announcing the sanctions during a White House event honoring the veterans of the Bay of Pigs.

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The Treasury added that the new sanctions also prohibit Americans from attending or organizing professional meetings, conferences, clinics, workshops, competitions and exhibitions on the island nation.

"The Cuban regime has been redirecting revenue from authorized U.S. travel for its own benefit, often at the expense of the Cuban people," Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement. "This administration is committed to denying Cuba's oppressive regime access to revenues used to fund their malign activities, both at home and abroad."

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Under the Trump administration, the United States has taken a stricter stance against Cuba compared to former President Barack Obama who sought to normalize relations with the Caribbean nation.

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In June, the U.S. Treasury sanctioned seven Cuban companies including the financial institution that handles U.S. remittances to the communist nation. A month earlier, the State Department added Cuba to the list of countries that are not cooperating with the United States' counterterrorism efforts.

Cuba's foreign minister, Bruno Rodriguez, rejected the sanctions Wednesday.

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"Banning travelers from staying at hotels and Cuban rum & cigars imports into the U.S. restrict U.S. citizens' rights & affect families in both countries," he said on Twitter. "Cuba's enemies are wrong to believe these electoral & opportunistic actions by Pres. Trump will break the will of Cubans."

The State Department has listed numerous hotels and accommodations affected by Wednesday sanctions, including Havana's Hotel Ambos Mundos that is famous for being the lodgeings of U.S. author Ernest Hemingway in the 1930s.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the Cuban government owns all the island's hotels and uses tourism to finance "abuses against the Cuban people and to interfere in Venezuela."

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"Today, the U.S. is taking action to deny that income," he said via Twitter. "U.S. travelers to Cuba should stay at privately owned accommodations, not regime hotels."

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At the White House, Trump told those assembled that the action was a part of the United States' fight against communist oppression.

"Today, we proclaim that America will never be a socialist or communist country," he said.

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