The government of Cuba could be added to the U.S. list of states that sponsor terrorism, if Secretary of State Mike Pompeo signs on to a State Department proposal as the Trump administration winds down, according to a new report.
The move could slow down attempts from the incoming Biden administration to improve relations with the Caribbean country, the New York Times reported Tuesday. It was not immediately clear whether Pompeo intended to implement the proposal.
In this Nov. 24 photo, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks to the media prior to meeting with Kuwaiti Foreign Minister Sheikh Ahmad Nasser Al-Mohammad Al-Sabah at the State Department in Washington. (Saul Loeb/Pool Photo via AP, File)
A State Department spokesperson said the department does not “discuss deliberations or potential deliberations” about the designation process.
The state sponsors of terrorism list include three countries: Iran, North Korea and Syria. The penalties for appearing on the list include strict international sanctions and limits on U.S. foreign aid.
The Reagan administration initially placed Cuba on the list in the early 1980s. It remained there until 2015, when the Obama administration normalized relations after decades of Communist control.
The State Department announced in May that Cuba was among five countries that failed to fully cooperate with U.S. counterterrorism efforts. The other four were the three on the state sponsor list and Venezuela.
The State Department said Cuba refused to extradite 10 suspects wanted in Colombia for a police academy bombing that killed 22 people and injured dozens more. Authorities also accused Cuba of harboring multiple American fugitives, including Joanne Chesimard, also known as Assata Shakur. She was convicted of killing New Jersey state Trooper Werner Foerster in 1973.
But Ben Rhodes, an Obama-era deputy national security adviser, told the Times that the accusations were “complete nonsense.”
“Cuba is not a state sponsor of terrorism,” he told the paper.
President-elect Joe Biden, who served as vice president in the Obama administration, has criticized Trump’s approach to the country as “failed.” He told Americas Quarterly earlier this year that Trump’s diplomacy there has “inflicted harm” on everyday Cubans without pushing their government to advance “democracy and human rights.”
Over the past few months, the Trump administration has implemented new travel restrictions on Cuba and banned purchases of rum and tobacco.
Many Cuban-Americans have been critical of the country’s authoritarian regime, and could be partly responsible for President Trump’s strong showing among Hispanic voters in the state of Florida during the November election.