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.

Why Cuba Remains on the List of Terrorist Supporting States…. Reply

Cuba Sees an Opening

By Mauricio Claver-Carone, The American (The Online Magazine of the American Enterprise Institute)

The State Department is reportedly considering dropping Cuba’s designation as a state sponsor of terrorism. Doing so would hand Havana a major – and unmerited – diplomatic victory.

Cuba’s Castro brothers have spent billions of dollars over the last decade seducing U.S. farm bureaus and agri-business to lobby Congress to support lifting sanctions on Cuba. Recently recognizing that Congress is unlikely to support unconditional changes, and perceiving a possible opening with the new Secretary of State John Kerry, Castro lobbyists have shifted their focus to the Obama administration and a related goal: the removal of Cuba from the State Department’s list of state sponsors of terrorism.

Kerry supported unilaterally easing sanctions on Cuba during his Senate career, and speculation that the State Department is considering removing Cuba from the state sponsor list – which also includes Iran, Sudan, and Syria – has been spurred by news reports citing contradictory remarks from anonymous administration sources. Some high-level diplomats have suggested Cuba be dropped from the list, according to the Boston Globe. But the State Department’s spokesperson Victoria Nuland clarified in late February that it had “no current plans” to change Cuba’s designation as a state sponsor of terrorism. However, that has not slowed efforts by those seeking rapprochement with the Castro regime, as a final decision will not be officially revealed until April 30.

Cuba has been on the state sponsors of terrorism list since 1982 due to its hostile acts and support of armed insurgency groups. While being on the list of terrorist sponsors imposes sanctions such as prohibiting the United States from selling arms or providing economic assistance, removing Cuba from that list would have little effect on these sanctions, as these were separately codified in 1996. However, it would certainly hand the Castro brothers a major – and unmerited – diplomatic victory. The Castros have long protested and sought to escape the ostracism associated with the terrorism listing, while refusing to modify the egregious behavior that earned them the designation. They are also hoping the change could improve their standing among otherwise reluctant members of Congress and lead to an unconditional lifting of sanctions in the near future.

Pursuant to the statutory criteria stipulated under Section 6(j) of the Export Administration Act (as currently re-authorized under the International Emergency Economic Powers Act), Cuba can only be removed from the state sponsors of terrorism list in two ways:

Option one is to have the U.S. president submit a report to Congress certifying that there has been a fundamental change in the leadership and policies of Cuba’s government, that Cuba no longer supports acts of international terrorism, and that Cuba has provided “assurances” that it will not support acts of international terrorism in the future.

It would be disingenuous for anyone to argue that there has been a “fundamental change” when the Castros have ruled Cuba with an iron fist for 54 years. Option one does not pass the laugh test.

Option two is to have the president decide to terminate the listing and submit, at least 45 days before doing so, a report to Congress that the Cuban government has not provided any support for international terrorism during the preceding six months and has made assurances to the United States that it will not support terrorist acts in the future.

It would be an insult to the American people if Cuba were to be removed from the list of state sponsors of terrorism based solely on assurances of change by a dictatorship that brutally represses its population, defies the rule of law, routinely foments anti-Americanism around the world with provocative anti-democratic rhetoric, and is holding in its prisons an American aid worker, Alan P. Gross. Arrested in December 2009, Gross’s “crime” was helping members of Cuba’s Jewish community connect to the Internet.

Feature continues here: http://www.american.com/archive/2013/april/cuba-should-remain-designated-as-a-state-sponsor-of-terrorism

Editor’s Note: Additionally, please remember that after 9/11, Cuba flooded US Embassies around the world with provocation agents whose mission was to degrade and disrupt US Intelligence efforts supporting the war on terror. Details can be found in the Sun-Sentinel article, “Embassy Walk-ins Were Cuba Spies Sent To Mislead U.s., Experts Say,” http://articles.sun-sentinel.com/2009-10-20/news/0910190393_1_cuban-intelligence-cuba-experts-cuban-agents

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.”