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Cuba on the Terrorist List Again in 2013

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Author: Emily Chow

The State Department on Wednesday, April 30th released the 2013 Country Reports on Terrorism, which includes the State Sponsors of Terrorism list. Once again, Cuba remains on this list (along with Syria, Sudan and Iran), and the reasons are as absurd as ever:

“Cuba has long provided safe haven to members of Basque Fatherland and Liberty (ETA) and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). Reports continued to indicate that Cuba’s ties to 14 ETA have become more distant, and that about eight of the two dozen ETA members in Cuba were relocated with the cooperation of the Spanish government. 

Throughout 2013, the Government of Cuba supported and hosted negotiations between the FARC and the Government of Colombia aimed at brokering a peace agreement between the two. The Government of Cuba has facilitated the travel of FARC representatives to Cuba to participate in these negotiations, in coordination with representatives of the Governments of Colombia, Venezuela, and Norway, as well as the Red Cross.

There was no indication that the Cuban government provided weapons or paramilitary training to terrorist groups.

The Cuban government continued to harbor fugitives wanted in the United States. The Cuban government also provided support such as housing, food ration books, and medical care for these individuals.”

So where’s the evidence? Not only is the Cuban government facilitating the historic peace process between the Colombian Government and the FARC, but the State Department even recognizes that the Cuban government doesn’t provide weapons or training to terrorist organizations. So why do they remain on this list, if half of the reasons for keeping them on the list are truly reasons to take them off?

Well, the State Department continues to deflect legitimate questions that point out the absurdity of Cuba on the State Sponsors of Terrorism list. At the daily press briefing on April 30th a reporter asked, “How much longer are you going to keep Cuba on the list of state sponsors of terrorism?”

Deputy Spokesperson MS. HARF: Well, it’s a good question that I know comes up a lot. The State Department has no current plans to remove Cuba from the State Sponsors of Terrorism list. As you may or may not know, there’s not a routine process by which you re-evaluate the state sponsors like there are, for example, with our terrorist designations for terrorist groups. So you can’t get into the process any more behind the scenes, but at this point, again, no plans to remove them.

QUESTION: But it would seem if they’re not supporting terrorist groups with weapons or training, and they’re retained because of the haven that they reportedly give to ETA and FARC, it doesn’t really make much sense they’re still on the list.

MS. HARF: Again, I don’t have any more details in terms of the reasoning that goes into that. Again, there’s no regular process for re-evaluating this. If there’s a policy reason to do so based on the conditions on the ground, I know folks will. But at this point, no plans to remove them from the list.

The persistent labeling of Cuba as a terrorism-supporting state also shows the contradictions in U.S policy, as the U.S. government harbors at least one terrorist against Cuba on our soil . . . Luis Posada Carriles, who was responsible, by his own admission, for the bombing of Cubana flight #455 on October 6th, 1976, which killed all 73 passengers aboard, including 24 members of the youth Cuban fencing team. Yet, Posada freely walks the streets of Miami.

Reputable polls continue to demonstrate that 56 percent of U.S. residents want to improve relations with Cuba, including trade and travel. Amazingly, Florida residents (including Cuban Americans) lead the nation with 60 percent. It could not be clearer that the majority of U.S. citizens want to see a change in policy.

While the release of this list is not the vehicle by which a country is delisted as a state sponsor of terrorism, removing Cuba from this list is within President Obama’s authority. He only needs to alert Congress of his plans to do so 45 days in advance. Removing Cuba from this list is an easy step for the Obama Administration to engage on a path towards normalization of relations with Cuba. It is in U.S. national interest to engage with Cuba. Continuing to pursue Cold War rhetoric and policies only further isolates the United States from the rest of the Western Hemisphere, and the rest of the world, that trades and engages freely with Cuba.