Unfair Designation: Cuba on the State Sponsors of Terrorism List

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Author: Ana Pereyra Baron

Even after devastating hurricanes and the Matanzas oil fire, it is nearly impossible for U.S. humanitarian and faith organizations to provide humanitarian aid to Cuban people. The main obstacle is the fact that Cuba is on the State Department’s “State Sponsors of Terrorism List.” It doesn’t belong there.

President Obama removed Cuba from that list in 2015 as part of the opening of diplomatic relations with Cuba. But then the Trump Administration placed Cuba back on the list because Cuba was hosting members of the ELN guerrilla group. Yet the previous Colombian government had asked Cuba to help host them as part of exploratory peace talks. Today, the Colombian government has once again asked for Cuba’s help in supporting peace negotiations with the ELN.

Cuba’s presence on this list is one of the biggest obstacles for Cuba to receive any type of financial transaction from the private sector, faith, and humanitarian organizations for fear of running afoul of U.S. anti-terrorism laws and regulations. This blocks humanitarian organizations from addressing the severe challenges facing the Cuban people– including shortages of food, medicine, and other life-saving items. To this day, Cuba remains in the U.S. State Sponsors of Terrorism List (SSOT). Yet everyone should have the right to give and receive humanitarian aid.

LAWG, along with many members of civil society across the country came together on March 15 and 16th for national call-in days to the White House to remove Cuba from the U.S. State Sponsors of Terrorism List. With your help, we had our voice heard. Over 20 groups from the faith community also wrote a letter to the Biden Administration urging him to remove Cuba off the list detailing the hardships of providing humanitarian aid to the Cuban people. To learn more about the SSOT designation click here.

Unfortunately, Representative Salazar (FL-27) introduced a bill (H.R.314 – FORCE Act) in the House of Representatives that prohibits the removal of Cuba from the States Sponsors of Terrorism List. On March 28th, the House Foreign Relations Committee held a full committee markup on the FORCE Act. Senator Rubio (R-FL) also introduced the FORCE Act (S.538) in the Senate. Please urge your senators and representative not to cosponsor the FORCE Act in the House (H.R. 314) or Senate (S. 538). And we will keep urging the Biden Administration to do the right thing and remove Cuba from this list.