Trump tightens Cuba sanctions as he woos Cuban-American vote

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 US often vote for the GOP. It also comes as Trump considers a Cuban American from Florida for a seat on the US Supreme Court.

At a White House ceremony recognising nearly two dozen veterans of the failed Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba in 1961, Trump said US travellers 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 US 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 re-election prospects.

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