Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the programs were disguised as 'cultural exchanges.' Photo: AFP

In yet another mean-spirited action by the Trump administration, the United States Department of State has added the Cuban remittance company American International Service (AIS) to its infamous “black list.”

The move, which will likely hurt ordinary Cubans in the long run, declared an institution controlled by the Cuban Armed Forces is at the service of the island’s “repressive apparatus,” On Cuba News online reported.

On the same day, Chinese President Xi Jinping said that he highly values the unique friendship between China and Cuba and stands ready to help make the two countries good friends, good comrades and good brothers forever.

A policy to destroy, and a policy to help — and they couldn’t be further apart.

It should be noted, that no other country in the world, except for Israel, supports US actions against the current Cuban government.

While the government of President Barack Obama attempted to bridge the diplomatic gap between the US and Cuba, and foster good relations, the Trump administration has literally torn it apart, causing great distress to the Cuban economy and its people.

The latest US missive was offered in a press release, in which Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that “The Cuban military uses AIS, its parent company FINCIMEX, and other entities to charge fees and manipulate the remittance and foreign currency market as part of the regime’s schemes to make money and support its repressive apparatus,” On Cuba News reported.

“The profits earned from these operations disproportionately benefit the Cuban military, furthering repression of the Cuban people and funding Cuba’s meddling in Venezuela,” the text charged.

Pompeo also alleged on Twitter that AIS steals money from remittances sent to the Cuban people, On Cuba News reported.

“The Cuban people deserve to live in freedom and dignity, able to choose their leadership and provide for themselves and their families,” he added, “looking forward to the day when the dream of freedom becomes reality.”

As is typical of the jingoistic Trump administration, no proof was provided of the allegations, and no other nation stepped forward to support the United States in its debilitating action.

Since last July 20, Cuba has 72 new stores in which a group of products can be purchased in freely convertible currency, taking the US dollars as a reference in their prices, On Cuba News reported.

Payment in these establishments is made through swift cards linked to bank accounts in foreign currencies and accept international VISA and MasterCard cards that are not linked to banks in the United States, national cards of the Metropolitano S.A., Crédito y Comercio (BANDEC) and Popular de Ahorro (BPA) banks linked to accounts in USD and national American International Service (AIS) cards.

The AIS is linked to Financiera Cimex S.A. Fincimex, which is licensed to — among other operations — manage and administer family aid remittances from abroad to Cuba, On Cuba News reported.

In early June, the Trump administration added seven Cuban entities to the “black list,” including Fincimex, but days later it postponed the sanction on that company until “there is an update of the Federal Register.”

During a speech last week to veterans of the failed Bay of Pigs invasion, Trump announced several restrictions for American tourists visiting the island.

The new measures of the administration of the Republican president to discourage the travel of his compatriots to Cuba included a ban on staying in hotels and importing bottles of rum and boxes of cigars, On Cuba News reported.

In Havana, the reaction to the inclusion of AIS in the black list was swift.

On his Twitter account, Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez criticized the new restrictive measure.

“I reject statements by Secretary Pompeo. New measures by the #U.S. government against #Cuba intensify the Blockade to try to manipulate Florida voters. It is a maneuver aimed at damaging the Cuban people and family ties in both nations,” said the minister.

Meanwhile, on the same day the US tightened its grip on the island nation, President Xi took an entirely different tact — eagerly expressing hope that China and Cuba would extend its friendship, reported.

Xi made the remarks in congratulatory messages exchanged with Raul Castro Ruz, first secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba Central Committee, and Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel to celebrate the 60th anniversary of bilateral diplomatic relations.

In his message to Castro, Xi noted that Cuba is the first Latin American country to establish diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic of China and that bilateral ties have over the past 60 years withstood the vicissitudes of the international situation and grows stronger.

Political mutual trust between China and Cuba has been continuously deepened and bilateral practical cooperation has yielded fruitful results, Xi said, adding that the two countries have stood together and joined hands to fight the Covid-19 pandemic.

In his congratulatory message to Diaz-Canel, Xi said that since the two countries established diplomatic ties 60 years ago, China and Cuba have forged a profound friendship with mutual understanding, mutual trust and mutual support.

For his part, Castro said in the message that Cuba is the first Latin American country to establish diplomatic relations with China and has always maintained sincere friendship with brotherly China, the Communist Party of China and the Chinese people.

Cuba thanks China for its firm support and is fully convinced that the 60-year-old friendship between Cuba and China will be passed down from generation to generation.

According to Dialogo Chino, in recent years, the relationship has strengthened through China’s Belt and Road Initiative, a network of Chinese-financed maritime and land infrastructure and communications projects aimed at facilitating trade.

Cuba opted to join the BRI in 2019, hoping it would be a boon to its troubled economy.

China already became Cuba’s main trading partner in 2017. That year, the two countries exchanged around US$1.8 billion worth of goods.

Cuba imported US$1.35 billion, mostly electrical products, and exported $379 million, with raw sugar and nickel accounting for the majority.