Amidst a raging, global pandemic and political unrest throughout the U.S., U.S. Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, has announced a surprising final move against Cuba as the island nation is back on the list of states sponsoring terrorism. One of the Trump administration’s last foreign policy decisions, this move caps four years of increasing economic and diplomatic pressure against the island.
What does this mean to tourism? With most travel from the U.S. to Cuba now barred, Emilio Morales, an exiled Cuban economist and president of the Miami-based Havana Consulting Group, has said that unwinding the measure will take at least a year and require careful study by the U.S. government.
According to Reuters and before the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020, Cuba expected a likely drop of 8.5% in tourism dollars for 2019 in the wake of tighter U.S. restrictions on travel to the Caribbean island, and the drop in arrivals was expected to further damage Cuba’s already ailing centrally planned economy.
Ties between the two countries had been essentially frozen after Fidel Castro took power in 1959 and removing Cuba from the blacklist was one of former President Barack Obama’s main foreign policy achievements as he wanted better relations with the island, an effort endorsed by his vice president, today’s president-elect, Joe Biden. Slamming the country with new sanctions could restrict President-elect Joe Biden’s promise to renew relations with the communist-governed island. The latest sanctions put Cuba alongside North Korea, Syria and Iran as the only foreign nations deemed state sponsors of terrorism.
In a statement, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo accused Cuba’s government of having “fed, housed, and provided medical care for murderers, bombmakers, and hijackers.” In particular, he cited Cuba’s refusal to extradite to Colombia members of the National Liberation Army guerrilla group following a terrorist attack in Bogotá and a breakdown in peace talks.