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.
Reaction on Twitter
I strongly reject new #US government ban on charter flights to #Cuba, except for Havana, and restrictions on their number. This is serious violation of human rights and freedom of travel of US citizens and hinders family reunification. #CubaVsBlockade— Bruno Rodríguez P (@BrunoRguezP) January 10, 2020
Stopping Americans ability to see their families in Cuba is a violation of human rights. https://t.co/Pg5bMXiWyj— Engage Cuba (@Engage_Cuba) January 10, 2020
How would you like to find out you might not be able to see members of your family anymore? Because reading this on Twitter and knowing his actions may once again separate my family in the States from my family in Cuba feels awful. https://t.co/5lV3dONP5y— Monica Castillo (@mcastimovies) January 10, 2020
As directed by the Secretary of State the Department of Transportation suspended, until further notice, all public charter flights between the United States and Cuban destinations other than Havana’s José Martí International Airport. The noose tightens.. https://t.co/o67sBPEKrU— Fernando Amandi Sr. 🇺🇸 (@FernandoAmandi) January 10, 2020
USgov once more punishes Cuban government & people of #Cuba on both sides of the Florida Strait. Vicious attempt to pressure Cuba economically to bend our political will and step on our sovereign rights has proven to be nasty and damaging, but unsuccessful. @CubaMINREX— Carlos F. de Cossio (@CarlosFdeCossio) January 10, 2020
The Cuban regime continues to oppress the Cuban people and destructively interfere in #Venezuela. The Administration is taking additional action to deny resources to the regime by curtailing public charter flights to nine airports in #Cuba. https://t.co/tfTteaai7b— Morgan Ortagus (@statedeptspox) January 10, 2020
The Castro regime fears losing its grip on #Cuba - so it imprisons Cubans who call for democracy and free speech. For 100+ days, the regime has unjustly imprisoned, tortured, and denied visitors to #HumanRights defender @jdanielferrer. We call for his immediate release.— Michael G. Kozak (@WHAAsstSecty) January 10, 2020
From Sancti Spíritus, Cuba I read that Trump has cancelled charter flights to all cities in Cuba except Havana. The Cuban people are suffering because of the bitterness and rancor of Miami’s old guard.— George Henson, PhD (@unpoetaloco) January 10, 2020
Local 10 News digital reporter/producer Andrea Torres contributed to this report.