U.S. says Cuba still a “State Sponsor of Terrorism”

According to the State Department, “U.S. law requires the Secretary of State to provide Congress, by Apr. 30 of each year, a full and complete report on terrorism with regard to those countries and groups meeting criteria set forth in the legislation.” Beginning in 1982 the list has included Cuba as a “State Sponsor of Terrorism.” Others this year are Iran, Sudan, and Syria.

The 2013 “Country Reports on Terrorism” specifies that “a wide range of sanctions” be applied to targeted countries. (http://www.state.gov/documents/organization/225045.pdf) They include prohibition of U.S. arms exports and economic assistance, “controls” over exports and services with potential military or terrorist use, and “[i]mposition of miscellaneous financial and other restrictions.” The last category serves to authorize U.S. government harassment of Cuba through economic blockade, travel restrictions, and restrictions placed upon Cuba-related transactions by international banks and lending agencies.

The Report charges that, “Cuba has long provided safe haven to members of Basque Fatherland and Liberty (ETA) and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).” And, it adds, “The Cuban government continued to harbor fugitives wanted in the United States.”

Activist Assata Shakur, who escaped from a New Jersey prison in 1979 and arrived in Cuba in 1984, is the most well-known fugitive. On May 2, 2013 the FBI placed her on “its list of most wanted terrorists” and increased the reward for information leading to her capture to the current $2 million.

The Report’s Cuba section continues with mitigating considerations. “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.” And, “Cuba’s ties to 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.” Furthermore, “There was no indication that the Cuban government provided weapons or paramilitary training to terrorist groups.”

Cuba’s Foreign Ministry responded by denouncing “manipulation of an issue as sensitive as international terrorism, in order to advance a policy against Cuba.” Additionally, “Cuba reaffirms that our national territory has never been utilized, nor will it be utilized, to shelter terrorists of any nationality… Moreover, our government rejects and unequivocally condemns all acts of terrorism.”

And: “Cuba is one of the countries which, for defending its independence and dignity, has suffered over decades the consequences of terrorist acts, organized, financed and executed from U.S. territory, acts which have caused 3,478 deaths and 2,099 debilitating injuries.” The Foreign Ministry condemned U.S. hypocrisy evident in “long, unjust prison sentences” imposed on Gerardo Hernández, Ramón Labañino and Antonio Guerrero. They had “struggled against terrorism.”

The Ministry pointed out that no U.S. fugitive was accused of terrorism.”[O]thers who committed crimes in the United States, were duly tried and sentenced, and chose to reside in Cuba after the completion of their sentences.”

Other critics of the Report accuse the United States itself of carrying out terrorism in the form of drone attacks, torture, illegal wars, and violence used in overthrowing foreign governments.

One tiny example from Colombia provides clear insight into contradictions posed by the U.S. approach to terrorism. The Report, which exonerates Colombia as a terrorist nation, seems to pass off Colombian paramilitaries as members of the terrorist “United Self Defense Forces of Colombia” (AUC). Lauding Colombian government initiatives, the Report notes that “the group’s activities decreased …The AUC did not carry out any terrorist attacks in 2013. It has been demobilized for seven years.”

In truth, Colombian paramilitaries are now officially known as “Bacrims.” That’s the Spanish-language abbreviation of “criminal bands.” Meanwhile paramilitaries, or Bacrims, remain true to their decades – long record of having murdered or “disappeared” tens of thousands of Colombians. The Colombian military, benefitting from U.S. funding and assistance, superintends their murderous work which began in 1964. A visiting U.S. military advisory team that year recommended paramilitary capabilities being developed as a tool for ridding Colombia of the newly-formed FARC communist insurgency.

The recent 318-page State Department Report applies to all nations in the world and contains more than 159,000 words. The section on Canada, no terrorist nation, consumed 2233 words. Yet the rationale for Cuba being an offender nation – no small matter – required only 176 words. And many are friendly words. Why then is Cuba regarded as a terrorist-sponsoring nation? Maybe it’s just because the U.S. government says so. Or else it’s because of Assata Shakur.

Photo: Latin American Working Group


W. T. Whitney Jr.
W. T. Whitney Jr.

W.T. Whitney Jr. is a political journalist whose focus is on Latin America, health care, and anti-racism. A Cuba solidarity activist, he formerly worked as a pediatrician, lives in rural Maine.