TAMPA, Fla. - In the final days of the Trump administration, the U.S. State Department put Cuba on the list of state-sponsored terrorism, which could slow future Cuban trade and tourism, especially for Tampa, the closest major port to Havana.
"Right now with eight days left until President Biden gets sworn in, it’s just political pandering," explained Victor Rudy DiMaio, a Democratic political consultant and the president of the Hillsborough County Democratic Hispanic Caucus.
DiMaio says it was a political payoff to powerful Republican Cubans in Miami who have long favored an embargo.
President-elect Joe Biden has promised to bring back former president Barrack Obama’s policy of renewing ties with Cuba.
In an extraordinary sign of possible reconciliation of the two neighboring countries, President Obama traveled to Cuba four years ago when the Tampa Bay Rays went there to play a Cuban team
But Trump administration officials say Cuba is sending aid to Venezuelan dictator Maduro and is harboring fugitives.
Cuba joins just three other countries on the terror list: North Korea, Iran, and Syria.
"I’m not ever going to excuse the genocide of the Castros and their impact on the world. They were the first real terrorists," said Tampa attorney Ralph Fernandez, who has long railed against Communist Cuba, but now says he wants President-Elect Biden and his administration to explore closer relations.
For Cuba to get off the terror list, the departments of state and defense must perform new reviews, some would say to keep Americans safe from terrorism. Others say politics are postponing a return to Cuba.