A view of Havana, Cuba, is seen from the roof of the Iberostar Parque Central Hotel. Photo courtesy U.S. Department of State/UPI | License Photo
Jan. 11 (UPI) -- The U.S. State Department announced Monday that it was redesignating Cuba as a state sponsor of terrorism, further reversing a 2015 Obama-era campaign to improve relations between the two countries.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced the move in the final days of the Trump administration, blaming Cuba "for repeatedly providing support for acts of international terrorism in granting safe harbor to terrorists."
Pompeo said the Cuban government engaged in "malign interference in Venezuela and the rest of the Western Hemisphere."
The move will penalize U.S. companies for making business deals in Cuba and also restricts U.S. foreign assistance, bans defense exports and sales, and imposes controls on some exports, the State Department said.
In June, the Trump administration worked to ban U.S. cruise ships from docking in Cuba. In August, the U.S. suspended charter flights to Cuba.
The late-term move to return Cuba to a pariah state was criticized as a way for departing Trump officials to throw a wrench into the incoming Biden administration's stated goals for a "reset" to normalize relations with Havana.
"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," Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., said in a statement Monday.
Rep. Gregory W. Meeks, D-N.Y., chairman of the House foreign affairs committee, said he was "outraged" by the designation, and urged the Biden administration to reverse it when it gets into office.
"I am outraged that Donald Trump is designating Cuba as a State Sponsor of Terrorism less than a week after he incited a domestic terror attack on the U.S. Capitol," he said in a statement. "The hypocrisy from President Trump and Secretary Pompeo is stunning but not surprising."
Cuba's Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez called the move "political opportunism" in a tweet.
Biden served as vice president during the Obama administration, which removed Cuba from the terrorism list in 2015 as part of an overall campaign to improve business and political ties to the island nation.
Ben Rhodes, Obama's former deputy national security adviser, called Monday's decision "politicized garbage meant to tie the hands of an administration that takes power in 10 days."
Currently, the only countries on the state department's terrorism blacklist are Iran, Syria and North Korea. Sudan was removed in 2020 as part of the Trump administration's peace agreements brokered in the Middle East.