Senior Spy Specializing in Targeting Americans Assigned as Cuban Ambassador to Canada; Deputy Spy-Master Assigned as Spain’s Ambassador 2

Editor’s Note: Josefina Vidal, suspected of being a “US Targets” officer in the Director of Intelligence (DI), was expelled from the US in 2003 along with 15 other Cuban spy-diplomats. Her Deputy in the Foreign Ministry was Gustavo Machin, also a suspected US Targets officer. Machin was thrown out of the US in retaliation for the Ana Montes spy case. He later served as Cuban Ambassador to Pakistan where he is believed to have overseen Havana’s targeting of US counterterrorism operations in the region. He has now been selected to serve in Madrid as Cuba’s Ambassador. Historically, Mexico, Canada and Spain host the largest Cuban spy centers in the world (outside their three bases in the United States).  “Officially,” DI officers resign from the spy service when they become ambassadors. However, we can expect these two “retired” US Targets officers to have significant and adverse influence over the activities in their host nations. 

 

 

Advertisements

The Most Dangerous U.S. Spy You’ve Never Heard Of 4

Ana Montes with then-Deputy DCI George Tenet, after receiving an award.

Ana Montes with then-Deputy DCI George Tenet, after receiving an award.

By Thom Patterson, CNN

Programming note: Explore untold stories of American spies: CNN Original Series “Declassified” airs Sundays at 10 p.m. ET/PT only on CNN.

(CNN) — She put American combat troops in harm’s way, betrayed her own people and handed over so many secrets that experts say the U.S. may never know the full extent of the damage.

Ana Montes was the Queen of Cuba, an American who from 1985 to the September 11, 2001 attacks handed over U.S. military secrets to Havana while working as a top analyst for the Pentagon’s Defense Intelligence Agency.

But despite her crimes, Montes remains largely unknown.

You might not think Cuba could do much harm to a superpower like the U.S., said retired DIA official Chris Simmons, appearing on CNN’s “Declassified.”

But you’d be wrong.

The threat increases, he said, when Havana goes on to sell those U.S. military secrets to nations like China, Russia, Iran, Venezuela and North Korea.

Montes’ anger about U.S. foreign policy complicated her relationships and drew the attention of Cubans who enticed her to turn her back on friends, family and her own country.

The fascinating spycraft that surfaced from her case offers a rare glimpse into the invisible world of espionage, where some experts believe there could be as many as 100,000 foreign agents working inside the U.S.

The two Anas

Montes grew up like millions of other girls during the Cold War, in a large, middle-class family, the oldest of four children.

Born to Puerto Rican parents on a U.S. Army base in Germany in 1957, Montes‘ father served his country as an Army doctor. By the time Montes entered high school, her father had left the military and settled the family about an hour north of Washington, D.C., in Towson, Maryland.

She attended the University of Virginia, and in 1977 and 1978, she spent a liberating year studying in Spain. There, she met a Puerto Rican student named Ana Colon.

The two Anas quickly became friends — bonding through their Puerto Rican roots — not politics. “I had no political awareness whatsoever,” said Colon, now a Washington-area elementary school teacher.

Feature continues here:  Ana Montes

 

 

Obama Says Would Move Fast to Take Cuba Off Terrorism Sponsor List 5

Obama(Reuters) – President Barack Obama vowed on Tuesday to act quickly once he receives a State Department recommendation on whether to remove Cuba from the U.S. list of terrorism-sponsoring countries, a remaining obstacle to the restoration of relations between Washington and Havana.

With just days to go before a hemispheric summit in Panama where Obama will come face-to-face with Cuban President Raul Castro, he offered no clear sign of how he was leaning or the timeframe for his decision. He ordered the review immediately after announcing a diplomatic breakthrough with Havana on Dec. 17.

Obama, in a Reuters interview in early March, said he hoped the United States would be able to open an embassy in Cuba by the time of the April 10-11 Summit of the Americas, and U.S. officials have since said the review was being expedited.

But the lack of a decision so far on taking Cuba off the terrorism blacklist – something Havana has steadfastly demanded – has raised strong doubts about whether the review will be finished in time to make further strides toward normalization before the summit.

“As soon as I get a recommendation, I’ll be in a position to act on it,” Obama said in an interview with National Public Radio.

Obama gave no sense of where the administration is heading on the issue but made clear that his decision would be based not on “whether they engage in repressive or authoritarian activities in their own country” but on the “current activities of the Cuban government” with regard to terrorism.

Cuba was added to the list of terrorism sponsors in 1982, when it was aiding Marxist insurgencies. But it is currently aiding a peace process with Colombia’s left-wing FARC guerrillas.

“I think there’s a real opportunity here, and we are going to continue to make – move forward on it,” Obama said. “Our hope is to be in a position where we can open an embassy there, that we can start having more regular contacts and consultations around a whole host of issues, some of which we have interests in common.”

He added: “What I’m saying is, I’m going to be taking a very close look at what the State Department recommends.”

(Reporting by Eric Walsh and Matt Spetalnick; Editing by Ken Wills)

Raúl Castro propuso a Obama un ‘canal de comunicación secreto’ 2

El famoso apretón de manos entre Barack Obama y Raúl Castro durante los funerales de Nelson Mandela en el FNB Stadium de Soweto, Sudáfrica, el 10 de diciembre del 2013.Uncredited/Associated Press

El famoso apretón de manos entre Barack Obama y Raúl Castro durante los funerales de Nelson Mandela en el FNB Stadium de Soweto, Sudáfrica, el 10 de diciembre del 2013.Uncredited/Associated Press

By Nora Gámez Torres, ngameztorres@elnuevoherald.com

La administración del presidente Barack Obama utilizó al embajador español Miguel Ángel Moratinos en el 2009 para hacer llegar un mensaje a Raúl Castro y pedir una acción que reciprocara su decisión de eliminar, tras llegar a la Casa Blanca, las restricciones a los viajes de los cubanoamericanos.

En el libro Back Channel to Cuba, The Hidden History of Negotiations between Washington and Havana, Peter Kornbluh y William LeoGrande reproducen el mensaje enviado a Castro: “Diga a la autoridades cubanas que entendemos que las cosas no pueden cambiar de la noche a la mañana, pero que a lo largo del camino, cuando miremos atrás, deberá quedar claro que este fue el momento en que las cosas comenzaron a cambiar”.

Raúl Castro envió de vuelta una propuesta de abrir un “canal de comunicación secreto”, pero la Casa Blanca replicó que cualquier conversación debía entablarse a través de los “canales establecidos”.

Los autores del libro, que recoge la historia de las negociaciones secretas entre Cuba y Estados Unidos en los últimos 55 años, señalan que aunque Obama ha reconocido que una política hostil es fútil, no ha tenido más voluntad que sus predecesores en romper este impasse. Las razones quizá están en las “lecciones” que los autores resumen casi al final del texto: “Estados Unidos se ha contentado con vivir en un ‘antagonismo perpetuo’ hacia Cuba porque los costos han sido relativamente bajos, y cambiar la política supone riesgos políticos domésticos que los sucesivos presidentes han juzgado como muy grandes”.

Pero Kornbluh aseguró a el Nuevo Herald que las “lecciones” tienen que ver con lo que ha sucedido en los últimos 55 años, y no con el contexto actual.

“La política doméstica sí es un gran impedimento desde el fin de la Guerra Fría pero hay cosas que están cambiando en términos de la opinión pública en Miami y Florida”, en parte como resultado de la propia política de Obama de permitir viajar más libremente a los cubanoamericanos a Cuba, señaló.

Otro factor mencionado por el autor es que Obama es un presidente demócrata en su segundo mandato, por lo que no está tan preocupado por las repercusiones de un cambio de política.

“Florida claramente no está siendo considerada por Hillary Clinton como un estado con un voto decisivo y ella ha hecho pública su posición de que el embargo es una mala idea para la política exterior estadounidense. Estados Unidos tiene también imperativos regionales para cambiar su política. Mira por ejemplo lo que ha pasado con la Cumbre de las Américas, en la que es Estados Unidos el que está aislado y no Cuba”, agregó.

Read more here: Back Channel

 

 

 

 

 

Convicted Spy Makes First Official Visit 4

icapBy Arnaldo M Fernandez

The Vice President of the Cuban Institute of Friendship with the Peoples (ICAP), former spy Fernando González-Llort, arrives in Madrid tomorrow to take part in the annual festival of the Communist Party of Spain (PCE). It is the first time González-Llort has traveled abroad after his release. The agenda includes a concert organized by the State Committee to Free the Five and meetings with the Federation of Cuban Residents in Spain (FACRE) and representatives of solidarity groups.

According to Cuban Ambassador in Spain, Eugenio Martínez Enríquez, dozens of Spaniards rallied in Madrid, Valencia, Alicante, Sevilla, and Barcelona last Friday to demand the immediate release of the three Wasp Network spies still in prison.

Editor’s Note: ICAP’s intelligence collaboration with the Directorate of Intelligence (DI) dates back over three decades. It is not a DI entity per se, but is believed to be roughly 90% DI-affiliated due to a large pool of collaborators who serve the small team of ICAP-embedded DI officers.

Cuba Demands Removal from List of State Sponsors of Terrorism 1

ETA members fire blanks during the Day of the Basque Soldier of 2006

ETA members fire blanks during the Day of the Basque Soldier of 2006

Communist country continues to sponsor terror groups around the world

By Daniel Wiser, Washington Free Beacon

Cuba’s communist government is demanding its removal from a U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism despite its continued support for regimes that sponsor terrorism worldwide.

Cuba was designated as a state sponsor of terrorism in 1982 and remained so in the State Department’s release this week of its most recent country reports on terrorism.

The report noted that Cuba “has long provided safe haven” to members of the Basque Fatherland and Liberty (ETA) separatist group in Spain, as well as the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). Both are still considered terrorist groups by the United States and European Union but have participated in peace talks in recent years. Cuba also continues to “harbor fugitives wanted in the United States,” the report added.

The report did not mention Cuba’s continued support for terrorism and violent repression directed by the governments of Venezuela, North Korea, Iran, and Russia. Still, Cuba’s Foreign Ministry said it should be taken off the list.

“The Foreign Ministry energetically rejects the manipulation of a matter as sensitive as international terrorism by turning it into an instrument of policy against Cuba and it demands that our country be definitively excluded from this spurious, unilateral and arbitrary list,” the government said in a statement.

The State Department responded that it had “no current plans” to remove Cuba from the list.

Cuba has most recently come under scrutiny for its role in advising the Venezuelan military. The communist island has reportedly sent hundreds of military advisers to Venezuela in exchange for about 100,000 barrels of oil a day.

Critics say the current repression of protesters by Venezuela’s government is reminiscent of the “Cuban model.” Trained and well-armed civilian groups known as “Bolivarian Circles” or “colectivos”—akin to the Castros’ “committees to defend the revolution”—are accused of killing several protesters in the last three months. About 40 people total have died in the demonstrations against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.

 Article continues here:  Cuban Support to Terrorists

 

Spanish Judge Throws Out Payá Family Lawsuit 6

By Juan O. Tamayo, JTamayo@elNuevoHerald.com

A Spanish judge has rejected a lawsuit against Cuban security officials filed by relatives of the late Havana dissident Oswaldo Payá, arguing that Spanish politician Angel Carromero already has declared himself responsible for the death of the democracy activist.

Judge Eloy Velasco also ruled that the death of Payá, founder of the Christian Liberation Movement, in a car crash last summer did not amount to a crime against humanity, and that the Spanish government also had already accepted that the crash was an accident.

Payá’s brother Carlos, a Madrid doctor, said Monday that he could not comment on the ruling until he consulted with the family lawyer. Velasco’s decision was published in several Madrid news outlets, apparently before lawyer Francisco Andujar Ramírez received a copy.

The lawsuit alleges that a Cuban State Security vehicle rammed a car driven by Carromero and forced it to crash, killing Payá and fellow dissident Harold Cepero on July 22, 2012. Carromero and Swedish politician Jens Aron Modig suffered minor injuries.

A Cuban court found Carromero was speeding, lost control of his rented car and crashed on his own. He was convicted of vehicular homicide and sentenced to four years in prison, but was freed in December to serve the rest of his sentence in Spain.

Velasco ruled that Carromero accepted the Cuban version in a pre-trial video and during his one-day trial, and that the Spanish government had “explicitly recognized” the verdict as part of the bilateral agreement that allowed Carromero to fly home.

The allegation that the crash was caused by State Security “cannot be verified,” the judge wrote, adding that Carromero’s driving record was full of infractions and noting that Modig, who claimed to have been asleep before the crash, was not “alerted or woken up … even though (Carromero) claims they were being chased.”

The lawsuit argued that the Spanish court had jurisdiction over Payá’s death because he was a Spanish citizen and his death was a crime against humanity, due to its political overtones, but Velasco ruled the case did not meet any of the requirements for a crime against humanity.

Trying Payá’s death again before a Spanish court would amount to a kind of double jeopardy, the judge wrote in his ruling, and to having a Spanish court “review” the Cuban court’s sentence just because Payá had Spanish citizenship.

The lawsuit was filed by Payá’s widow and daughter and specifically named State Security Lt. Col. José Águilas, chief investigator for crimes against the security of the state, and a Col. Llanes, identified as the officer in charge of monitoring Payá’s dissident activities.

Velasco’s ruling closely paralleled the recommendations sent to the judge Sept. 13 by prosecutor Teresa Sandoval, who argued that the lawsuit should be spiked because both Carromero and the Spanish government had already accepted that the death was accidental.

Carromero, a Madrid leader of the youth branch of Spain’s ruling Popular Party, went to Cuba with Modig, head of the youth branch of Sweden’s Christian Democratic Party, to deliver 8,000 Euros to democracy activists on the island on behalf of a Swedish foundation.

Edward Snowden May Be Cuba or Latin America Bound … Cuba Keeps Earning its Place on the State Sponsors of Terror List 2

By Jason Poblete, DC Dispatches

There are news reports this morning that NSA leaker Edward Snowden may be headed to Havana, Cuba to hide from U.S. authorities. If Snowden is going to Cuba, it is because he knows he will find safe-haven from U.S. law for doing things that have been extremely detrimental to our global war against radical Islam. If true, it further reinforces that the State Department’s recent report keeping Cuba on the state sponsors of terror list was the correct one.

Under U.S. law, the designation of placing a country on the list a legal and political decision by the Executive Branch. The legal justification is found in numerous laws including Sec. 6(j) of the Export Administration Act, Sec. 40 of the Arms Export Control Act, and Sec. 620A of the Foreign Assistance Act. Cuba earned its spot on the state sponsors of terrorism list since 1982. Please note that the release of the report does not constitute that there was a review by the U.S. government.

Why has Cuba and the Cuban Communist Party earned the designation? Here is a small and partial list based solely on what is in the public domain:

1. Cuba has a large number of individual and entities listed on the Treasury Department’s Specially Designated Nationals List (based on numerous legal authorities);
2. The harboring of an FBI fugitive in Cuba since 1984: cop killer Joanne Chesimard. Chesimard was a member of the radical left-wing terrorist group, the Black Liberation Army and is wanted for her role in the first-degree murder of New Jersey State Trooper Werner Foerster. Trooper Foerster was shot and killed with his own weapon in the name of “black power”. There is a petition to have Chesimard extradited to the United States;
3. Cuba’s harboring of Chilean terrorists linked to the assassination of Senator Jaime Guzman, founder of one of Chile’s conservative political parties, the Independent Democratic Union (The death of a conservative leader does not rank very high with Cuban regime supporters in the United States;
4. The false peace process the Cuba claims to be brokering the past few years with the Colombian FARC terrorist group and Colombia’s government;
5. The harboring of FARC terrorists;
6. The Cuban regime’s support of Venezuela and vice-versa. I could write several articles on this gem. Venezuela should have been added to the state sponsors list years ago. But that is a subject for another post;
7. Harboring of Spain ETA terrorists;
8. Cuba’s close and ongoing relationship with state sponsor of terror Iran and others state sponsors of terrorism;
9. Cuba has engaged, and likely still engages in a biological weapons program. If it does not, then why does the regime refuse to allow inspectors at sensitive sites throughout the island;
10. The Ana Belen Montes espionage case, among others including Kendall Myers and the Cuban Five;
11. And, the most important reason, it is in the U.S. national interest to do so.

A few weeks ago a Washington, DC think tank, CSIS, hosted a conference titled, “The Case to Remove Cuba from the Terrorist List.” You can listen to the panel here. Here are some of the reasons the panelists believe that Cuba should be removed from the terrorist list:

1. Calls from leaders in the Western Hemisphere to remove Cuba from the list (Note: with few exceptions, there are no leaders in the Western Hemisphere that are truly allies of the United States. Moreover, this is not a factor for putting Cuba on the list);
2. Strategic move by the United States by removing Cuba from the list would help people-to-people contacts (Note: this is not an element of any of the state sponsors terrorism designation criteria. And, what about prong 1 of U.S. policy, pressure on the Cuba regime?);
3. See #2 in the prior section of this post. The panelist argue it is not a factor, and if it were, they argued the “political exception” to extradition treaties and, at times, seemed to question the logic of calling Chesimard a terrorist;
4. They glossed over #7, supra, by saying Spain has asked Cuba to keep them in Cuba by granting them Cuban citizenship (Note: This is absolutely false and I have confirmed it with Spanish government colleagues currently serving);
5. Listing Cuba as a state sponsor of terrorism is an “arbitrary and capricious” act (Note: for national security law purposes, this legal standard is a weak one to use and, at times, practically completely inapplicable to the Cuba question);
6. Judgements piling up in U.S. federal court because people are using the designation to file claims against Cuba (Note: I’d argue this is consistent with U.S. law and policy of pressuring the regime);
7. There are countries that should be on the list but are not on the list;
8. It serves no useful purpose (Note: if that is the case, why spend so much time talking about it?);
9. The Cuban government is a good at “spinning things” so they have used the designation for propaganda purposes in Cuba;
10. It is an extreme position to have Cuba on this list.

Interestingly, not once throughout the CSIS panel did any of the speakers discuss that U.S. law toward Cuba requires a two-prong approach: (1) helping the Cuban people and (2) isolating the Cuban regime. They focused only on prong (1). We could go on and on. Reach your own conclusions. Folks who support removing Cuba from the list are mainly people who oppose current U.S. policy. It is that simple. They are trying to make it political because it advances, in their minds, a path forward to ease sanctions on the regime.

The reality is that the political ball is in Cuba’s court, not the United States. The regime knows what it has to do and it choses not to change its ways. For now, a “small sector in Miami and DC” (as people said several times during the CSIS conference) will continue to advance efforts to isolate the Cuban regime as well as support the people of Cuba. That is a good thing. If we want to reach agreement on outstanding questions such as U.S. property claims against Cuba, Cuba’s debt, and much more (see my list as to why Cuba should stay on the terrorism list), we need to maintain a firm hand.

Study the history of modern, and not so modern dictatorships, and one thing stands out: they crumble sooner or later. The Castro brothers have lasted longer than most because Cuba is an island. Literally, an island in the middle of the Caribbean. In prior times, Cuba was important for Western Hemisphere geo-strategic purposes, but the U.S. can make due with the status quo. Just look at the last five decades. The U.S. has managed just fine without Cuba and, as a bonus, we even maintain a military base there.

We can argue ad nauseam who was right and what policy was not, but we won. That is all that matters. It is now up to the regime to decide how it wants to spend its waning days. Why do some people insist on handing over to Cuban one propaganda victory over another over another? That is what we do every time the U.S. weakens some component of U.S. policy. The have been trying to do so since the Bush Administration.

If Edward Snowden is headed to Cuba, he will become yet another token of the regime’s resistance to the U.S. The thing is, the Cuban people on the island are growing very impatient and the regime is running out of political tricks. We should take advantage of this political pressure cooker and increase economic sanctions once and for all. Then and only then will the Cubans regime come to its senses. And, if Snowden is not going to Cuba but to some other country in the Western Hemisphere, I can all but guarantee that Cuba is somehow lending a hand to make it so.

State Department: Havana Provides Safe Haven to US Fugitives 1

By Juan O. Tamayo, jtamayo@ElNuevoHerald.com

Cuba is harboring and supporting U.S. fugitives but may be trying to distance itself from two dozen members of a Basque terrorist group who live on the island, according to the State Department’s annual Country Report on Terrorism released Thursday.

The report for 2012 is totally separate from the department’s list of state sponsors of terrorism, which now includes Cuba, Iran, Syria and Sudan and subjects those nations to a special set of U.S. economic and other sanctions.

Advocates of keeping or removing Cuba from the list awaited the 2012 report with special interest because of media reports earlier this year, flatly denied by the State Department, that Secretary of State John Kerry would take Havana off the list.

The Cuba section of the 2012 report appeared to be similar to the section in 2011, with both noting that Havana authorities are continuing to harbor fugitives wanted in the United States and supporting them with housing, ration books and medical care.

One such fugitive is Joanne Chesimard, on the FBI’s “most wanted terrorist” list since 2005. A Black Panther who was convicted in the 1973 murder of New Jersey State Trooper, she escaped from prison in 1979 and turned up in Havana in 1984. The FBI hiked the reward offered for her capture to $2 million in April.

“There was no indication that the Cuban government provided weapons or paramilitary training to terrorist groups,” the 2012 report said, in wording almost exactly the same as in the 2011 report.

Both reports also noted “suggestions” that Havana has tried to distance itself from members of Spain’s Basque Homeland and Liberty (ETA), classified by Washington as a terrorist group, who live in Cuba by “not providing services, including travel documents, to some of them.”

The 2012 version adds that two dozen ETA members are living in Cuba.

Members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, also classified as a terror group, received refuge in Cuba in past years, according to the latest version. The 2011 report noted that FARC members had received medical assistance. The FARC and Colombian government are currently holding peace talks in Havana.

Both reports also noted that the U.S. Financial Actions Task Force has identified Cuba as having “strategic … deficiencies” in the fight against terrorism financing and money laundering. The latest report adds that Cuba has now joined a regional body designed for that purpose.

Cuba has been on the separate U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism since 1982. Havana also is on a separate U.S. government list, with Venezuela and others, of countries that are not “cooperating fully with United States antiterrorism efforts.”

To remove Cuba from the list of state sponsors, the White House is required to notify the U.S. Congress that Cuba has not engaged in terrorism for some time and promised not to do so again.

The View From Canada: It’s Time to Take Cuba off the Terror List 2

By Peter McKenna in the Winnipeg Free Press

In some ways, the U.S.-Cuba relationship — even under the presidency of Barack Obama — is still locked in a Cold War time warp. For a host of illogical reasons, including Havana’s 2009 imprisonment of Alan Gross, a subcontractor for the U.S. Agency for International Development who acted illegally in the country, Washington can’t seem to bring itself to break diplomatic bread with the Cuban government.

But there is some chatter in the halls of the U.S. State Department that newly minted Secretary of State John Kerry is seriously contemplating removing Cuba from an arbitrary list of countries that export or promote terrorism. By law, he has to make that determination and recommendation to the president before his department publishes its annual report on terrorism April 30.

Keeping Cuba on that list prevents dual-use military technology, which could include advanced medical equipment, from reaching the island. It also compels Washington to vigorously oppose any loans to Cuba from international financial institutions such as the World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank.

Interestingly, Kerry has a record of endorsing moderation in Washington’s irrational and punitive Cuba policy, including his unease with millions of U.S. dollars for secretive democracy-building programs in Cuba. He no doubt believes the time is ripe, as is the political situation in south Florida, for the U.S. to work toward normalizing its relations with the Cuban government.

Cuba has been on the terror list since the list was first pulled together back in 1982. At that time, the reason for doing so was based on Havana’s material support for revolutionary movements and guerrillas in various Latin American countries throughout the 1960s and 1970s. That support no longer exists.

In the case of Cuba’s ties to the struggling Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and Spain’s Basque Homeland and Liberty (ETA) movement, there is no evidence that it has provided them with arms or paramilitary training. In fact, the Cubans have recently sought to curtail their relationship with ETA members residing on the island.

Further, Cuba is now playing an important mediation role in seeking to resolve the long-standing internal conflict between the FARC and the Colombian government. No matter how you slice it, the rationale for not delisting Cuba is pretty thin.

As a recent editorial in the Los Angeles Times opined: “By all accounts, Cuba remains on the list — alongside Iran, Sudan and Syria — because it disagrees with the United States’ approach to fighting international terrorism, not because it supports terrorism.”

It’s worth mentioning that the Cuban government strongly condemned the terror attacks of 2001, offered to send medical supplies and health-care professionals in their aftermath, and acquiesced in Washington’s plan to house suspected terrorists at its Guantanamo Bay naval facility.

Surely if North Korea could be removed from the bad-boy list in 2008 by the former George W. Bush administration — and that Pakistan has never made it onto the list, even though it had sheltered Osama bin Laden for years — it is long overdue to scratch Cuba’s name off.

Cubans have certainly strengthened their case for doing so under the leadership of Raúl Castro, who has introduced economic and social reforms, permitted Cubans to travel freely abroad (including vocal dissidents), opened a constructive dialogue with the Catholic Church and released dozens of political prisoners.

The Canadian government, fresh from Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird’s visit to Havana, should be using its good offices to convince the Americans to delist Cuba. If successful, it would have the salutary effect of bolstering Canada’s brand and profile in the region — a wise move, given that the Harper government has made the Americas a centrepiece of its foreign-policy thrust.

Removing Cuba from the terror list would also go some way toward resetting the U.S.-Cuba relationship on a proper diplomatic footing. This symbolically important step, in conjunction with a series of other confidence-building measures, such as the release of Gross, might eventually lead to the lifting of the U.S. economic embargo against Cuba and restore Washington’s credibility in the hemisphere. Such a move would obviously be in the best interests of Cuba, the U.S. and the wider international community.

Peter McKenna is professor and chair of political science at the University of Prince Edward Island and the editor of Canada Looks South: In Search of an Americas Policy.