US on Verge of Momentous Cuba Decision: Whether to Take Island off Controversial Terror List 3

HAVANA (Associated Press) – A normally routine bit of Washington bureaucracy could have a big impact on U.S. relations with Cuba, either ushering in a long-stalled detente or slamming the door on rapprochement, perhaps until the scheduled end of the Castro era in 2018. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry must decide within a few weeks whether to advocate that President Barack Obama should take Cuba off a list of state sponsors of terrorism, a collection of Washington foes that also includes Iran, Syria and Sudan.

Cuban officials have long seen the terror designation as unjustified and told visiting American delegations privately in recent weeks that they view Kerry’s recommendation as a litmus test for improved ties. They also hinted the decision could affect discussions over the release of jailed U.S. subcontractor Alan Gross, whose detention in 2009 torpedoed hopes of a diplomatic thaw. Inclusion on the list means a ban not only on arms sales to Cuba but also on items that can have dual uses, including some hospital equipment. It also requires that the United States oppose any loans to Cuba by the World Bank or other international lending institutions, among other measures.

U.S. officials agree the recommendation, which Kerry must make before the State Department’s annual terror report is published April 30, has become ensnared in the standoff over Gross. The American was sentenced to 15 years in prison after he was caught bringing communications equipment onto the island illegally while working for a USAID-funded democracy-building program. Cuba has been on the terror list since 1982, and is also the target of a 51-year U.S. economic embargo — the reason why the island of beaches, music and rum is the only country Americans cannot visit as tourists. Removal from the list would not change that.

Critics say Cuba’s inclusion on the list has little to do with any real threat posed by the Communist-run Caribbean island, and they say the list has become so politicized it’s useless. North Korea was removed in 2008 during nuclear negotiations that ultimately failed, and was never put back on. Pakistan, where Osama bin Laden had been hiding out, is not on the list in large part because of its strategic importance.

Longtime Cuba analyst Philip Peters of the Virginia-based think tank the Lexington Institute said removing Cuba from the list “makes sense … just because it’s been a specious allegation that the United States has repeated for many years … It would improve the atmosphere.”

Others argue against rewarding Havana unless it releases Gross. “I have long believed it’s in our interest to see an improvement in relations with Cuba,” said Rep. Chris Van Hollen, a Democrat from Gross’s home state of Maryland who traveled with a congressional delegation to Havana last month. But “the first step needs to be resolving Alan Gross’s situation.”

Voices calling for a change in the policy are growing louder, however. Last month, The Boston Globe cited administration sources saying high-level diplomats determined Cuba should be dropped from the list. That prompted State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland to say there were “no current plans” to do so, though she did not explicitly rule out the possibility.
Last week, a Los Angeles Times editorial called for Cuba’s removal from the list, and other newspapers have voiced similar opinions. The Cuba Study Group, a Washington-based exile organization that advocates engagement to promote democratic change, issued a white paper in February calling for an “apolitical” reexamination of the terror designation.

While Kerry can review the designation even after the State Department’s report comes out, Cuba’s continued inclusion on the list in April would almost certainly rule out its chances of removal in 2013. A U.S. official involved in deliberations told The Associated Press that Kerry will ultimately decide and nobody under him is in a position to predict what will happen. “It’s very much up in the air,” he said. But another administration official said that lifting the terror designation will be a hard sell while Gross remains imprisoned. “It’s very unlikely,” the second official said. “There is no consensus. And if you are on (the list), you stay on as long as there is no consensus on taking you off.” The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly.

Ostensibly, Cuba has been designated a terror sponsor because it harbors members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) rebel group, the Basque militant organization ETA and a handful of U.S. fugitives, many of whom have lived here since the 1970s. But much has changed in recent years. Late last year, peace talks began in Havana between Colombia and the FARC, and even Washington has voiced hope that the negotiations will end Colombia’s half-century old conflict. ETA announced a permanent cease-fire in 2011, and Madrid has not openly called for the return of any Basque fugitives. Cuba has enjoyed improved relations with Spain and Colombia in recent years, and both countries routinely vote at the U.N. against continuing the U.S. embargo.

Under President Raul Castro, Cuba has freed dozens of dissidents and has begun opening its economy and society, though it remains a one-party political system that permits no legal opposition. Castro announced in February that he would step down in 2018 and signaled a likely successor. The time might also be ripe in terms of U.S. politics.

While in the Senate, Kerry was an outspoken critic of America’s policy on Cuba, saying it has “manifestly failed for nearly 50 years.” He called for travel restrictions to end and held up millions of dollars in funding for the type of programs Gross worked with. His boss, President Obama, no longer has to worry about reelection or pleasing Cuban-Americans, an all-important voting bloc in the crucial swing state of Florida.

Ann Louise Bardach, a longtime Cuba observer and the author of “Without Fidel: A Death Foretold in Miami, Havana and Washington,” said all the political winds would seem to point toward a reboot in relations — except for Havana’s decision to hold Gross and try to swap him for five Cuban agents in the US. “In a way they cooked their goose with Alan Gross,” she said. “The Cubans thought, ‘Gee what a brilliant idea, we’ll have a chit to trade.’ Little did they know that they would be at this moment where you have considerable momentum to move on in Washington, and politically, because of the Gross mess, Washington can’t act.”

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“Retired” Cuban Spy Pontificates on Cuban Support to Terrorism Reply

Cuba and the List of Countries That Promote Terrorism

By Jesús Arboleya Cervera, appearing in Progreso Semanal/Weekly

HAVANA – Every year, the U.S. Department of State publishes a list of “countries that promote terrorism” that serves as a basis for Washington’s policy toward them. The list includes a set of sanctions established by Congress. Many are the questions that arise from this practice. In the first place, the very concept of “terrorism” has yet to be defined by the international organizations of justice and the United Nations, due to the political manipulation to which it is subjected.

In other words, the U.S. government describes as “terrorist” whoever it sees fit and omits others who might deserve the description but whose inclusion is inconvenient. For example, Afghanistan was invaded in 2002 at the start of the “world war against terrorism,” yet it doesn’t appear on the list. Many believe that the United States itself could be on the list, if the list were made up with rigor and fairness. In sum, more than a moral condemnation, the list of countries that promote terrorism is a boast of unilateral power, whose true importance is to announce where the shots are coming from.

Cuba has been included since 1982 because of its support for the revolutionary movements in Central America. It is revealing that it was precisely the administration of Ronald Reagan that took the initiative, while at the same time he was promoting a “low-intensity” war in the region that led to his condemnation in the International Court of Justice. Later, he was rebuked by Congress itself, due to the Iran-Contra scandal. Anyhow, even after those conflicts were over, Cuba remained on the grim list. Other excuses were used then, such as saying that Cuba sheltered fugitives of U.S. justice in the 1970s, gave refuge to members of the Basque group ETA, and “offered medical aid and political assistance” to combatants in the Colombian FARC.

Various international analysts, legal institutions and American politicians have for years refuted the legal pertinence of those arguments, so I’ll simply quote recent statements by Congressman Jim McGovern, in which he made clear that the abovementioned fugitives never committed terrorist acts and that the ETA members are in Cuba at the request of the Spanish government itself. As if that weren’t enough, Havana at present is the site for the peace talks between the Colombian guerrillas and the Colombian government, as it has been previously, throughout the years. {emphasis added]

The Congressman also said that, due to the state of relations between the two countries, there are no extradition accords that justify that complaint. I should add that, if negotiations to that effect were to begin (as the Cuban government once proposed), the list submitted by Cuba would include hundreds of people who have actually committed terrorist acts against Cuba, among them the notorious Luis Posada Carriles.

In truth, the inclusion of Cuba on the list of countries that promote terrorism cannot withstand any serious scrutiny. Years ago, due to the weight of reality, Cuba abandoned the practice of supporting armed revolutionary movements, whose denomination as “terrorists,” from a historic perspective, is as questionable as the American list.
But that’s not what the problem is about. Cuba’s inclusion on the list is an excuse to keep up the belligerence promoted by the American far right, especially the Cuban-American groups that serve as activists in Congress and various public opinion media in that country. Even if Raúl Castro became Mahatma Gandhi, those people would consider him a terrorist anyway.

The current debate has to do with the U.S. policy toward Cuba in the current circumstances. On one side are those who advocate maintaining the economic blockade and as many punitive measures as possible; on the other, those who posit that this policy is counterproductive for U.S. interests. It should be said that, except for some exceptions, the argument is the same: the efficacy of the method to achieve a “regime change” on the island. It has nothing to do with the truth.

For those who promote change, Cuba’s elimination from the list constitutes one of the most favorable targets. It is not based on reality; its arbitrariness affects the credibility of Washington’s policy against terrorism. Also, the decision, in whatever direction, rests entirely on the government, including the State Department, without involving the President directly. This does not mean that it will be a simple task. There will be a big hubbub from the conservatives; more than one functionary will be subjected to third-degree interrogations in Congress; some laws and appointments will be used as exchange currency to revert the decision. We shall then see if Obama’s administration is willing to face the storm in order to proceed with the change it proposes.

As a result, for more than its practical importance, inasmuch as the sanctions against the island exceed what’s established in the provisions, Cuba’s elimination from the list of countries that promote terrorism would serve as an indicator of this willingness, placing us on a stage that’s qualitatively different, where the adoption of more transcendental measures could be possible.

Some in Cuba believe – with reason – that what’s proposed is a bear hug. I think a hug is preferable to a bite. Besides, wishes don’t necessarily come true, and the simple fact of recognizing that Washington’s current policy toward Cuba is not viable shows us how times have changed and proves that our resistance was worthwhile, as phrased by Manuel Calviño, a famous Cuban psychologist on his television program.

Editor’s Note: Colonel Jesus Arboleya Cervera was identified by DGI Captain Jesus Perez Mendez after his defection in 1983. Arboleya, who served as a Second Secretary at the Cuban Mission to the United Nations in New York City before transferring to the Washington-based Cuban Interests Section, was also identified by convicted spy Carlos Alvarez. During his tour, Arboleya was the architect of the 1970’s US-Cuba normalization drive, which almost succeeded in 1977 following the formation of a group of prominent Cuban-Americans who called themselves the Committee of 75. Although headed by respectable Cuban-Americans, including two clerics and several businessmen, the Committee was DGI-inspired. According to Senate testimony of March 12, 1982, at the time, Arboleya may have been the longest serving DGI officer in the United States.

Since Colonel Arboleya promoted the subject of Havana’s role in peace talks (see “emphasis added” above), be sure to read about the following posts discussing the exploitation of peace talks by Cuba’s spies:

Cuba Dupes UPI; Uses Peace Talks to Hide Decades of Support to FARC Terrorists, December 14, 2012, https://cubaconfidential.wordpress.com/2012/12/14/cuba-dupes-upi-uses-peace-talks-to-hide-decades-of-support-to-farc-terrorists/

Cuba’s Terrorist Allies Open Peace Talks With Enraged Rhetoric, October 19, 2012, https://cubaconfidential.wordpress.com/2012/10/19/cubas-terrorist-allies-open-peace-talks-with-enraged-rhetoric/

Colombia Nears Possible FARC Peace Talks, August 28, 2012, https://cubaconfidential.wordpress.com/2012/08/28/colombia-nears-possible-farc-peace-talks/

Cuba’s Designation as a State Sponsor of Terrorism Reaffirms The Regime’s Long Standing Threat to U.S. National Security Interests, Says Ros-Lehtinen 1

(WASHINGTON) – U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Chairman of the Middle East and North Africa Subcommittee, released the following statement regarding Cuba’s designation as a State Sponsor of Terrorism. Statement by Ros-Lehtinen:

“I am relieved that the State Department spokesman stated today that it is not true that Cuba is being considered to be taken off the State Sponsor of Terrorism list. The Castro brothers align themselves with the likes of Ahmadinejad of Iran, al-Assad of Syria, Qaddafi of Libya before his death, along with terrorist groups, such as the FARC and the ETA. Just this week, Ali Saeedlou, Vice-President for International Affairs for fellow State Sponsor of Terrorism Iran, is in Cuba visiting the Castro brothers to expand its collaboration between these pariah states.

No one can ignore the well documented threats of the Cuban Intelligence Service (CIS). CIS has a longstanding record of expanding their active espionage operation against the U.S. The WASP network was an example of Cuban spies sent to the U.S. to harm our interests and kill American citizens. The Cuban Five were convicted of trying to penetrate U.S. military installations and the Ana Belen Montes case reaffirmed the intention of the Castro regime to compromise U.S. national security operations and activities. Montes also provided highly classified information to the Cuban regime which is believed to have caused the death of U.S. servicemen operating in Latin America. The Cuban regime also harbors fugitives of the U.S. justice system, including cop killers, and continues to provide support for Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

It is important to keep Cuba on the list of State Sponsors of Terrorism because the secretive and dangerous regime conspires with extremist elements around the world and, due to its proximity to the US, poses a threat to our national security.”

Duke Heading Backward with Alumni Trips to Cuba 1

By Javier Garcia-Bengochea y Bolivar, [Durham] Herald-Sun guest columnist

I am a Duke alumnus and Cuban exile, one of more than a million people forced to flee Cuba virtually penniless since 1959 as well as one of 14 million Cubans in Cuba and worldwide collectively robbed of their property, rights, freedoms and heritage as Cubans. Fortunately, I was not one of the hundred thousand who died trying to escape Cuba. As you read this, Duke returns from another alumni trip to Cuba, exploiting a loophole in U.S. law. Travel to Cuba is chic. “Everybody” is doing it and so, too, is Duke. Yet, this is not an innocent enterprise. Time has passed, but not as a catalyst for change in Cuba. Cubans continue to be denied property rights, including their civil rights and vote and are more repressed each year. Americans speciously believe that exposing Cubans to them will bring change. For Duke this “opportunity to learn” and be part of “the conversation about Cuba” occurs entirely in a vacuum.

The isolation of Cuba over five decades extends well beyond the U.S. embargo, which has obscured what Cuba is, an international pariah due to perpetually hostile policies towards her people and her partners, past and present. Since the Cuban missile crisis exposed Fidel Castro as the most dangerous figure since Stalin, democratic nations have spent trillions of dollars fighting Cuban aggression on every continent. Cuba has been a haven for terrorist groups, including the PLO, ETA, FARC and probably al-Qaeda. Cuba seeks our enemies for alliances. The Castro regime has defaulted on more than $75 billion of international debt, excluding several hundred billion dollars in damages to former property owners in Cuba. Cuba continues to expropriate foreign assets in Cuba without compensation. Cuban agents rob U.S. taxpayers through Medicare fraud estimated to be billions of dollars and facilitate drug trafficking. Cuba is unrepentant for taking an American, Alan Gross, hostage. These are only a few of their sins.

The result has been the systematic destruction of virtually all material and social value in Cuba. Only the vices, the pre-revolutionary past, Cuba’s natural resources and the indomitable spirit of the Cuban people remain to be exploited. Tourism, the regime’s last hope for hard currency, will eventually exhaust these, too. Duke, in its complicity, contends Cuba travel is an academic exercise. Really? These trips are entirely scripted and choreographed by the Cuban state or, more precisely, the oligarchs who control the Cuban economy. These elites select the hotels, restaurants, and events, even supplying the “dissenting” voices aimed to bamboozle Duke alumni that Cuba tolerates free speech. Duke accepts this indoctrination without question. Such bias in the work of any Duke student would be categorically rejected. As an academic and intellectual exercise, these trips are pure fraud. Duke never considered that the majority of the items and venues in their November trip, “The Art & Architecture of Cuba,” are stolen, not only from Americans and Cubans in exile, but from the millions of Cubans still living in Cuba.

And the money paid to travel agents (yes, selected by the regime) and spent in Cuba? Into private corporations managed by the oligarchs, many of which are registered in other countries. These control the tourist industry, stores and medical services for foreigners and Cuban elites, which exclude ordinary Cubans. Not one Duke dollar funds the purported social benefits of the revolution, which have become illusory.
Duke dismisses that until recently it was illegal for most Cubans to visit the tourist hotels, restaurants and stores, mostly because these Cubans were stereotyped as black, panhandlers and prostitutes. That they are mostly black and the elites who host Duke are mostly white is no coincidence and is emblematic of “Cuban socialism.”

To wit: Cuba’s two-currency system of the convertible peso (CUC) and the traditional peso (CUP). Duke pays the Cuban tourist enterprise in CUCs (~US$1), the legal tender for foreigners, while Cuban workers are paid in CUPs (~US$0.04), the legal tender for Cubans, by the Cuban entity as if the two were equal. Duke is indifferent to this fact. Discrimination is, therefore, maintained through poverty. The two-currency system is outright theft from ordinary Cubans and is legal and institutional apartheid; it is slavery. Apparently this offends no one at Duke, not even within the Gang of 88. Duke’s Cuba travel only strengthens the real embargo of Cuba: the internal embargo of goods and services between these oligarchs — Cuba’s 1 percent that consumes resources, produces nothing and, most perniciously, is accountable to absolutely no one — and the Cuban people. Ironically, this disgraceful situation coincides with Duke’s capital campaign targeting its prosperous alumni, made so by strong property rights and the rule of law, which Duke disparages for Cuba. Such naiveté and hypocrisy occurs to the delight of their Cuban hosts. Duke Forward? Evidently not.

Dr. Javier Garcia-Bengochea y Bolivar is a neurosurgeon and 1981 Duke graduate. Born in Havana, Cuba, he lives in Jacksonville, Fla.

US State Dept: Cuba Remains on Terrorism List 2

Country Reports on Terrorism 2011

Chapter 3: State Sponsors of Terrorism

Office of the Coordinator for Counterterrorism

July 31, 2012

In order to designate a country as a State Sponsor of Terrorism, the Secretary of State must determine that the government of such country has repeatedly provided support for acts of international terrorism. Once a country has been designated, it continues to be a State Sponsor of Terrorism until the designation is rescinded in accordance with statutory criteria. A wide range of sanctions are imposed as a result of a State Sponsor of Terrorism designation, including:

  • A ban on arms-related exports and sales.
  • Controls over exports of dual-use items, requiring 30-day Congressional notification for goods or services that could significantly enhance the terrorist-list country’s military capability or ability to support terrorism.
  • Prohibitions on economic assistance.
  • Imposition of miscellaneous financial and other restrictions.

CUBA

Cuba was designated as a State Sponsor of Terrorism in 1982. Current and former members of Basque Fatherland and Liberty (ETA) continue to reside in Cuba. Three suspected ETA members were arrested in Venezuela and deported back to Cuba in September 2011 after sailing from Cuba. One of them, Jose Ignacio Echarte, is a fugitive from Spanish law and was also believed to have ties to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). Reports suggested that the Cuban government was trying to distance itself from ETA members living on the island by employing tactics such as not providing services including travel documents to some of them. Press reporting indicated that the Cuban government provided medical care and political assistance to the FARC. There was no indication that the Cuban government provided weapons or paramilitary training for either ETA or the FARC.

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

The Financial Action Task Force (FATF) has identified Cuba as having strategic AML/CFT deficiencies. Despite sustained and consistent overtures, Cuba has refused to substantively engage directly with the FATF. It has not committed to FATF standards and it is not a member of a FATF-style regional body, although in 2011 it did attend a Financial Action Task Force on Money Laundering in South America meeting as a guest and prepared an informal document describing its anti-money laundering/counterterrorist financing system.

Read the rest of this year’s report here:  http://www.state.gov/j/ct/rls/crt/2011/195547.htm

More information on State Sponsor of Terrorism designations may be found online at http://www.state.gov/j/ct/c14151.htm