US bans charter flights to Cuban cities besides Havana

Cuban Yosbel Sosa, 33, drives his 1959 Chevrolet Impala through the streets of Havana, in search of tourists. PHOTO: AFP

HAVANA (AP) - The Trump administration is banning charter flights to Cuban cities besides Havana in a new tightening of US restrictions on the island.

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

The State Department said in a press release on Friday (Jan 10) that charter operators would have 60 days to wind down their flights to Santiago, Holguin and seven other cities across the island, and put a new restriction on the number of charter flights to Havana's Jose Marti International Airport.

"'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 Michael Pompeo said in the statement.

The new restriction 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.

Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez said on Twitter that the new measure was a "serious violation of human rights and freedom of travel of US citizens and hinders family reunification."

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