US designates Cuba state sponsor of terrorism

'With this action, we will once again hold Cuba’s government accountable and send a clear message'

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The U.S. State Department announced Monday that it is designating Cuba a state sponsor of terror, accusing it of providing safe harbor to malicious actors and engaging in "malign behavior" in the region.

"The Trump Administration has been focused from the start on denying the Castro regime the resources it uses to oppress its people at home, and countering its malign interference in Venezuela and the rest of the Western Hemisphere," Secertary of State Michael Pompeo said in a statement. "With this action, we will once again hold Cuba’s government accountable and send a clear message: the Castro regime must end its support for international terrorism and subversion of U.S."

Monday's designation returns the Caribbean nation to a list that it was on from Ronald Reagan's administration and until that of Barack Obama. In 2016, Obama became the first U.S. president to visit Cuba since 1928.


The Obama administration attempted to normalize relations in 2015 but encountered resistance from President Trump, whose administration recently argued that Cuba had failed to cooperate on counterterrorism.

State Department officials 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.

Under Trump, the historically tumultuous relationship worsened as U.S. diplomats acquired strange illnesses, including brain trauma, in the socialist country. In the summer of 2017, Trump imposed travel and financial restrictions on Cuba while blasting as "one-sided" Obama's 2016 deal with the regime.

"Cuba returns to the SST [State Sponsor of Terror] list following its broken commitment to stop supporting terrorism as a condition of its removal by the previous administration in 2015," Pompeo said on Monday.

It's unclear how long the designation will last, as Obama's former vice president, Joe Biden, is set to take the White House in just over a week.


Former top Obama adviser Ben Rhodes called on the next administration to reverse Trump's decision. 

"The Biden Administration should not allow itself to be constrained by last minute political favors being done by an authoritarian administration that recently sought to overthrow the democratically elected U.S. government," Rhodes tweeted. "This decision should be reversed as soon as possible."

Bloomberg reported last month that Biden's team was planning to reverse some of the actions that Trump's administration had taken up to that point. That included reducing restrictions on travel, remittances, and investment.


Pompeo alleged, however, that Cuba had harbored fugitives and engaged "in a range of malign behavior across the region," including coordination with the Maduro regime in Venezuela.

"The United States will continue to support the Cuban people in their desire for a democratic government and respect for human rights, including freedom of religion, expression, and association," Pompeo said.  "Until these rights and freedoms are respected, we will continue to hold the regime accountable."

Fox News' Nicholas Kalman, Michael Ruiz and Rich Edson contributed to this report.