By DARLENE SUPERVILLE, Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) — Americans won’t be allowed to bring home cigars and rum from Cuba under measures President Donald Trump announced Wednesday to financially starve the island’s government, a move taken as he tries to boost his appeal among Cuban-Americans, a crucial voting bloc in the battleground state of Florida.
The action comes as the Republican president reaffirmed his administration’s “ironclad solidarity” with the Cuban people, whose descendants in the U.S. often vote for the GOP. It also comes as Trump considers a Cuban American from Florida for a seat on the U.S. Supreme Court.
At a White House ceremony recognizing nearly two dozen veterans of the failed Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba in 1961, Trump said U.S. travelers will also be prohibited from staying at hotels and other properties owned by the Cuban government.
Trump said the new steps announced by the Treasury Department will ensure that U.S. dollars do not fund the Cuban government, but go directly to the everyday Cubans.
“Today we reaffirm our ironclad solidarity with the Cuban people and our eternal conviction that freedom will prevail over the sinister forces of communism and evil in many different forms,” the president said. “Today we declare America’s unwavering commitment to a free Cuba.”
The new restrictions are the latest in the Trump administration effort to reinstate an economic blockade of Cuba and reverse the strategy of restoring diplomatic relations with the island, the policy that was pursued by former President Barack Obama’s administration.
Cuban-Americans are a crucial voting bloc in Florida, a state critical to Trump’s reelection prospects.
Republicans have long dominated with these voters, who are known for a collective dislike of President John F. Kennedy, a Democrat, over the Bay of Pigs invasion. The mission failed to meet its goal of toppling the communist government of Cuba’s Fidel Castro.
Trump recognized the Bay of Pigs veterans at the White House in November 2019, but Wednesday’s ceremony was held as Trump has publicly talked up Barbara Lagoa, a U.S. appeals court judge of Cuban descent, as a possible successor to the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
Associated Press writers Adriana Gómez Licón in Miami and Kevin Freking in Washington contributed to this report.