In June, the administration effectively prohibited U.S.-based cruise ships from visiting Cuba, following a series of increasingly restrictive measures limiting the purposes for which American travel there is allowed.
The State Department said that Transportation Department issued the new measure suspending scheduled air service, other than to Havana, “at the request of the Secretary of State.”
“In line with the President’s foreign policy toward Cuba, this action prevents revenue from reaching the Cuban regime that has been used to finance its ongoing repression of the Cuban people and its support for Nicolás Maduro in Venezuela,” a State Department statement said.
The administration in January withdrew its recognition of Maduro’s government, instead recognizing opposition leader Juan Guaidó as president. But the goal of pushing Maduro from office has been slow to materialize, and the United States has blamed Cuba and Russia for continuing to support him.
In addition, the statement said, “the human rights situation in Cuba remains abysmal, with state authorities harassing and arbitrarily jailing activists, dissidents, artists, and others questioning regime authority with impunity.”
Direct commercial flights and other expanded travel opportunities from the United States to Cuba came as part of the Obama administration’s opening to Cuba, which reopened diplomatic relations with Havana in 2015. Tourism remained prohibited, under the terms of economic sanctions in effect since 1962, but a number of categories of permitted travel were expanded. Many restrictions have now been reimposed by President Trump.
In June, Travel Weekly reported that “airlines have had relatively consistent U.S.-Cuba bookings of between 130,000 and 170,000 one-way passengers per month since September 2017, following higher numbers during the first year after commercial flights were authorized” in 2016.
Charter flights, most utilized by Cuban Americans, will still be permitted under the new restrictions.
Last week, the U.S. Commerce Department also said it would revoke licenses for aircraft leases to Cuban state-owned airlines, forcing national carrier Cubana de Aviación to suspend flights to several Latin American destinations.