Posted: Wednesday, September 23, 2020. 11:51 am CST.
By Aaron Humes: U.S. President Donald Trump has tightened sanctions on the Cuban government, restricting imports of Cuban rum and cigars and banning Americans from staying at properties owned by the Cuban government, Reuters reports.
Trump, facing a tough re-election fight against Democrat Joe Biden, aims to lock up the key Cuban-American vote in the swing state of Florida, without which no Republican has won the presidency since 1924.
Trump’s aides believe his toughened stance on Cuba, as well as Venezuela, has gone down well in the large Cuban-American community in south Florida, an important voting bloc in the state.
Trump announced the sanctions at a ceremony honouring Bay of Pigs veterans and commemorating the 40th anniversary of the 1980 Mariel boatlift that brought 120,000 Cubans to Miami.
Since taking office in January 2017, Reuters reports, Trump has sought to unwind a detente with Cuba pursued by his Democratic predecessor, President Barack Obama.
In June 2019, the Trump administration imposed heavy new restrictions on travel to Cuba, saying the move aimed to further pressure the Communist government over its support for Venezuela’s embattled President Nicolas Maduro.
The Treasury Department said at the time the United States would no longer allow so-called group people-to-people educational travel, one of the most popular exemptions to the overall ban on U.S. tourism to Cuba.
Earlier this year, the Trump administration ordered Marriott International to wind down hotel operations in Cuba. Starwood Hotels, now owned by Marriott, was the first U.S. hotel company to sign a deal with Cuba since the 1959 revolution amid the normalization of relations sought by Obama.
The U.S. sanctions have further crippled an economy already struggling with a decline in aid from ally Venezuela.
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