The US State Department’s description of Cuba ~ a state sponsor of terrorism ~ is basically intended to thwart incoming President Joe Biden’s signal of intent to restore friendlier relations with Havana.

As an immediate provocation, the Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, has cited Cuba’s hosting of 10 Colombian rebel leaders belonging to the National Liberation Army, along with a handful of American fugitives wanted for crimes committed in the 1970s, and Cuba’s support for the authoritarian leader of Venezuela, Nicolás Maduro. America’s last-minute stroke in diplomacy is bound to complcate Mr Biden’s foreign policy initiatives.

The subtext of the message must be that the Castro regime must end its support for international terrorism and subversion of US justice. As much is clear from Mr Pompeo’s supplementary to his message.

The US action, announced barely 10 days before Mr Biden’s inaugural, reverses President Obama’s 2015 decision to restore diplomatic relations with Cuba, calling its decades of political and economic isolation a relic of the Cold War.

The present State Department, in the twilight phase of its conduct of foreign policy, has thus reversed a landmark initiative by Mr Obama. Donald Trump as President had undermined Mr Obama’s policy of openness, to the delight of Cuban-American and other Latino voters in Florida who welcomed his aggressive stance towards both Havana and its socialist, anti-American ally, Mr. Maduro. Republicans had by and large lent support to Mr Trump, saying that Havana had failed to enforce political overhaul and had continued to crack down on dissent, breaking promises it had made to the Obama administration.

Monday’s designation of Cuba said the country has “repeatedly provided support for acts of international terrorism,” according to the State Department’s criteria for adding countries to the list, which includes only three other nations ~ Iran, North Korea and Syria, storm-centres all in their respective ways.

America’s move could fructify in the imposition of sanctions against Cuba. Yet such normally crippling curbs are likely to have negligible effect, considering the scale of existing American penalties against Havana. Mr. Pompeo has mentioned Cuba’s refusal to extradite 10 leaders of Colombia’s National Liberation Army described as a foreign terrorist organization, who have been living in Havana since 2017.

The leaders had travelled to Havana in 2017 for peace talks hosted by Cuba to end a long-running insurgency in Colombia, and have not returned home. Mr Pompeo also cited the presence in Cuba of three fugitives charged with or convicted of murder in the early 1970s. They include Joanne D. Chesimard, 73, a former member of the Black Liberation Army who now goes by the name Assata Shakur, and who remains on the FBI’s list of “most wanted terrorists” for killing a New Jersey state trooper in 1973.

It is, therefore, a complex cocktail of Communist ideology and the imperatives of US foreign policy ~ under the Republicans and now the Democrats.