US suspends all charter flights to Cuba except for Havana

New restriction also limits number of flights to José Martí International Airport

MIAMI – President Donald Trump’s administration is suspending all charter flights to Cuba except for Havana and limiting the number of flights to José Martí International Airport.

The U.S. State Department issued a statement Friday that charter operators would have 60 days to wind down their flights to Santiago, Holguin and seven other cities across the island.

In October, the Trump administration banned commercial flights to cities outside the capital.

“Today’s action will further restrict the Cuban regime’s ability to obtain revenue, which it uses to finance its ongoing repression of the Cuban people and its unconscionable support for dictator Nicolas Maduro in Venezuela,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement.

Rep. Donna Shalala disagrees with Pompeo saying that “keeping families apart has become” the policy of the Trump administration.

“The Trump administration’s proposal to suspend chartered flights to Cuba is the wrong solution to a complex problem,” Shalala said in a statement. “This proposal will not hurt the Cuban regime’s coffers. Instead, this policy will punish Cuban families - families who simply want to visit their loved ones on the island.”

Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart disagrees with Shalala saying Cuba uses the profits to oppress human rights activists like Jose Daniel Ferrer, who has been in prison since October.

“The administration knows that the regime profits handsomely from travel and tourism dollars, using them to oppress the Cuban people,” Diaz-Balart said.

The new restriction, effective March 10, leaves both leisure travelers and Cuban-Americans without an easy way to travel to destinations outside the Cuban capital. Driving from Havana to eastern Cuba can take more than 12 hours on poorly maintained and often dangerous roads.

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Local 10 News digital reporter/producer Andrea Torres contributed to this report.

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