Cuba on the Terrorist List for 30th Year

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Today, March 1st, marks the 30th anniversary of Cuba’s placement on the State Department’s list of State Sponsors of Terrorism.  In 1982 Cuba was added to this list because, according to the Congressional Research Services 2005 report, “At the time, numerous U.S. government reports and statements under the Reagan Administration alleged Cuba’s ties to international terrorism and its support for terrorist groups in Latin America.” The report goes on to recall Cuba’s involvement in supporting revolutionary movements in Africa and other Latin American countries. In “1992 Fidel Castro stressed that his country’s support for insurgents abroad was a thing of the past,” mainly due to the fall of the Soviet Union and subsequent loss of resources following the fall. 

And now? Cuba remains on the list, along with Iran, Sudan and Syria. Reason? According to the U.S. State Department website, “The Government of Cuba maintained a public stance against terrorism and terrorist financing in 2010, but there was no evidence that it had severed ties with elements from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and recent media reports indicate some current and former members of the Basque Fatherland and Liberty (ETA) continue to reside in Cuba. Available information suggested that the Cuban government maintained limited contact with FARC members, but there was no evidence of direct financial or ongoing material support. In March, the Cuban government allowed Spanish Police to travel to Cuba to confirm the presence of suspected ETA members.” Yes, you’re reading correctly. Even though the Cuban government has made efforts to support counter terrorism, denied their involvement which the United States partially recognizes, Cuba is still included on this list.

With Cuba’s inappropriate designation on this list, it helps intensify the argument of pro-embargoers in Congress by being able to classify Cuba as a “terrorist state.”  For 30 years, Cuba has been on this list and continues to be. Last December, LAWG and our partner, the Center for International Policy, hosted a conference calling for Cuba’s removal from this list. You can read about the conference here. Among the many downsides that Cuba faces because of its spot on this list are: preclusion of positive changes  in U.S. policy;  ineligibility for international financial packages from the World Bank or IMF;  punishment of Cuba for engaging in legal trade and financial transactions; deprival of access to modern technology by way of exports; and the filing of spurious legal claims against Cuba by Cuban “exiles” simply because Cuba is on the terror list. From our conference, Robert Muse of Muse and Associates said that “Officially labeling Cuba as a State Sponsor of Terrorism means that the U.S. government can take hold of Cuban assets to meet alleged compensation demands. In 2007 alone, there were four judgments that totaled $850 million and with Cuba designated on the terror list, more cases will continue to roll in,” said Muse.

To push the call even further, with the unfortunate case of Alan Gross, a USAID sub-contractor currently serving a 15-year sentence in Cuba, current U.S. position is to refuse to negotiate with terrorist states. With Cuba’s designation on the terrorist list, technically, we should not be negotiating for Gross’s release. In fact, yesterday, in a House Foreign Affairs Committee Hearing on the Foreign Operations budget, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stated that in reference to Gross, “We’ve made no deals, we’ve offered no concessions and we don’t intend to do so.” Cuba’s placement on the list stigmatizes Cuba as a terrorist country and prevents avenues for real negotiations vis-à-vis Gross to exist.  Removing Cuba from this list because of lack of evidence that Cuba is a terrorist state could only improve Alan Gross’s situation. It would also open up renewed possibilities for progress in bilateral discussions on many issues of interest to both countries and perhaps moving toward re-establishing diplomatic relations with Cuba.

For more information on Cuba’s placement on the State Sponsors of Terrorism list, visit these links from some of our partners:

Arturo Lopez-Levy, The Havana Note

Sarah Stephens, Center for Democracy in the Americas

Council on Foreign Relations