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US ending private charter flights to Cuba

The move does not include authorized public charter flights to and from Havana or emergency medical charters.
Credit: AP
People wave Cuban flags before a rally honoring the late Fidel Castro at Antonio Maceo plaza in Santiago, Cuba, Saturday, Dec. 3, 2016. (AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko)

Private charter flights between the U.S. and Cuba are being suspended, the U.S. Department of Transportation announced Thursday. It comes following a request from Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who said the move would deny economic resources to the Castro regime.

The move does not include authorized public charter flights to and from the Cuban capital of Havana, according to a statement by Pompeo Thursday. Authorized private emergency medical charters, search and rescue and other travel "deemed in the interest of the United States" will also be exempt.

"This Administration will continue to target and cut the revenue the Cuban government earns from landing fees, stays in regime-owned hotels, and other travel-related income," Pompeo said.

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It will take 60 says to wind down operations for most charter carriers, the transportation department said. The suspension will become effective on October 13. 

Pompeo accused the Cuban military and intelligence services operating the majority of hotels and other tourism areas in Cuba and urged travelers to consider that before traveling there.

The Cuban government has been the target of years of increased sanctions by the Trump administration, although the shutdown of commercial flights under coronavirus has had a far more dramatic effect in less than five months. The government has managed to maintain a low rate of infection but the economy is estimated to drop 8% this year after years of near-zero growth.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.