HAVANA, Aug 13 The U.S. has suspended private charter flights between the United States and all airports in Cuba, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced Thursday.The only charters allowed will be authorized public charters to and from Havana for emergency medical purposes, search and rescue, and other travel deemed to be of interest to the United States.
Pompeo issued a statement Thursday saying the request is meant to “strengthen the economic pressure on the Cuban regime as a means to restrict the regime’s ability to repress its people and support the illegitimate Maduro regime in Venezuela.”
The Secretary of State made the request of Secretary of Transportation Elaine L. Chao, whose department issued the suspension.
Pompeo said that he urges travellers of all nationalities to make responsible decisions regarding travel to Cuba. “Suspending private charter flights will deny the Castro regime financial resources and inhibit its ability to commit abuses,” Pompeo said.
The Cuban military and intelligence services own and operate the vast majority of hotels and tourist infrastructure in Cuba.
Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez rejected the measure on his Twitter account.
“I vigorously reject the new ban by the US government of charter flights to #Cuba except for #Habana and restriction of the number of them there. It is a serious violation of human rights, freedom to travel Americans and hinders family reunification. #CubaVsBloqueo,“ he wrote on Twitter.
U.S. Rep. Mario Díaz-Balart, R-Miami, also said on his Twitter account that he supports measures aimed at preventing Cuba from benefiting from travel and tourism dollars, using them to oppress the Cuban people, which, he said, are then used to “help to the Maduro regime to also oppress the Venezuelan people.“
About 624,000 Cubans residing abroad visited the island in 2019, and a record 552,816 came from the United States, according to a report by the Cuban newspaper Granma, citing figures from Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla.