By Ovunc Kutlu
ANKARA (AA) – In an apparent parting shot to its conservative base, the Trump administration on Monday re-designated Cuba a state sponsor of terrorism, claiming that Havana grants safe harbor to international terrorists.
Re-branding Cuba a sponsor of terrorism – a designation ended in 2015, under then-President Barack Obama – marks another step in reversing Obama’s softened stance towards the tiny island state, and perhaps the Trump administration’s final step before it ends on Jan. 20.
Cuba quickly denounced the controversial move.
“We condemn the US announced hypocritical and cynical designation of Cuba as a State sponsoring terrorism,” said Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez on Twitter.
“The US political opportunism is recognized by those who are honestly concerned about the scourge of terrorism and its victims,” he added.
Announcing the change, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said: "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."
He added: “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. justice."
Cuban intelligence has infiltrated Venezuela’s security and military forces to assist President Nicolas Maduro, Pompeo added.
The department's designation subjects Cuba to sanctions that would penalize individuals and countries engaging in certain trade with Cuba, restricts US foreign assistance, and bans defense exports and sales.
In his final days as secretary of state, Pompeo has made announcements designed to appeal to a hard-right base ahead of a possible 2024 presidential run, according to some analysts.