The U.S. Treasury Department announced new sanctions on Cuba Wednesday, which ban Americans from buying rum and tobacco as well as staying in government-owned hotels when traveling to the country.
The action comes as Republican President Donald Trump 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 the new steps 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.
The Treasury Department's new sanctions also eliminate a "general license" that authorizes "persons subject to U.S. jurisdiction to participate in or organize certain public performances, clinics, workshops, other athletic or non-athletic competitions, and exhibitions."
U.S. citizens and companies must apply for a "specific" license to participate in these activities.