Expelled Spy Josefina Vidal: US Should Have Never Labeled Cuba A State Sponsor of Terrorism 6

Josefina Vidal

Josefina Vidal

Vidal: Cuba never should have been on US terror list  

By Brian Williams, The Militant

A second round of talks between U.S. and Cuban officials on reestablishing diplomatic relations, which the U.S. government broke off 54 years ago, took place in Washington, D.C., Feb. 27. The shift in Washington’s tactics against Cuba’s socialist revolution was announced by President Barack Obama Dec. 17, at the same time as a press conference by President Raúl Castro announcing the return to Cuba of the final three of the Cuban Five.

The White House is seeking to fast-track the reopening of its embassy in Havana by April, while the Cuban delegation has emphasized steps Washington needs to take to remove obstacles to meaningful diplomatic relations.

“Cuban representatives reiterated the importance of solving a series of issues, which will allow for the creation of the appropriate context to resume diplomatic relations and open embassies in both capitals,” said a Feb. 27 news release from the Cuban delegation. These include removing Cuba from Washington’s State Sponsors of Terrorism list, allowing banking services to Cuba’s Interests Section in Washington and assurances that U.S. diplomatic staff observe “norms governing the functions of diplomatic missions” in “compliance with national laws and non-interference in the internal affairs of States,” the statement said.

Cuba has been on the State Department’s State Sponsor of Terrorism list since 1982. Other countries on it are Iran, Syria and Sudan.

“For Cuba it is a matter of sheer justice,” Josefina Vidal Ferreiro, head of the North American Bureau of Cuba’s Foreign Ministry and the leader of Cuba’s delegation, told reporters at a news conference in Washington after the negotiations. “Cuba strongly believes that it should have never been included in this limited list of countries and today there is no ground to justify the inclusion of our country on that list.” [emphasis added]

The state sponsorship of terrorism issue is not up for negotiation, but “a separate process” of “evaluation” by the U.S., Secretary of State John Kerry said earlier. “Nothing will be done with respect to the list until the evaluation is completed.”

“In our view it’s not necessary to put it all in one package,” Vidal told Cuban reporters after the talks. “If, for example, in a few weeks we receive some satisfactory news in regards to the matter of Cuba’s removal from the terrorist list, I think we can be ready to then begin talking about how to formalize the reestablishing of relations.”

Feature continues here: The Militant

Editor’s Note:  Vidal departed the US in May 2003 as part of the mass expulsion of 14 Cuban diplomat spies. Part of two husband-wife spy teams chosen, she and another spy-spouse departed “voluntarily” when their mate was declared Persona Non Grata.  Thus, the US actually threw out 16 spy-diplomats.

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Biden to Cuban Media: Alan Gross Detention a Key Obstacle in Diplomatic Relations 1

Vice President Joe Biden

Vice President Joe Biden

By Dana Davidsen CNN

(CNN) – Vice President Joe Biden sat down with a Cuban media outlet – a significant move given the decades-long tension between the United States and Cuba since the countries ended diplomatic relations more than 50 years ago.

In the interview published Tuesday, Biden cited the detention of Alan Gross, an American serving a 15-year sentence as a key obstacle in improving relations.

Biden made his comments to 14ymedio, a recently launched digital newspaper created by Yoani Sánchez, a Cuban blogger and fierce critic of the governments of Raul and Fidel Castro.

“I cannot emphasize enough that Cuba’s continued detention of Alan Gross is a major impediment to improved relations between the United States and Cuba,” Biden said, according to a translation provided by his office.

Gross was convicted in 2011 for bringing satellite communications equipment into the country as part of his work as a subcontractor for the U.S. Agency for International Development.

U.S. officials have said Gross was simply trying to help Cubans bypass their government’s stringent restrictions on Internet access.

“We can be as creative as we like with our policy, but Alan’s case remains at the top of our list for resolution. He deserves to come home, and should be released on humanitarian grounds,” Biden said.

President Barack Obama also answered questions from Sánchez in 2009, which she posted to her blog.

In that interview, Obama responded to a question regarding allegations that his administration was attempting to undermine Cuban authority, throwing cold water on the notion that the United States had plans to invade the island.

“I can give you the simplest of answers, and that answer is no. Just as President Obama said,” Biden said when asked about those concerns. “These accusations are a relic of the distant past. They are being used to strike fear into the hearts of decent Cubans who might otherwise focus on problems closer to home.”

Sánchez’s journalistic venture was, until Sunday, blocked by users in Cuba. Since the publication’s launch last week, for a few days, users were redirected to website apparently dedicated to slamming Sánchez and government dissidents, according to the Miami Herald.

The interview with Biden took place in April, as Sánchez notes in the article, while she was in Washington.

Further stoking fears in the Cuban government that Washington is trying to subvert its authority are accusations that the U.S. government tried to flood communications networks with the creation of a cell phone-based “Cuban Twitter,” known as ZunZuneo.

The program, which ended in 2012, allowed Cubans to message each other free of Cuban government restrictions on communications and allowed U.S. government officials to send mass messages to Cubans.

Cuba Does Not Merit Terrorism Delisting 1

By Jose Cardenas in Foreign Policy (via Capitol Hill Cubans)

Floating policy trial balloons is longstanding Washington custom. Not so common is when that balloon gets blasted out of the sky by the “senior official” leaker’s own administration. That’s what happened last week when the Boston Globe reported that, “High-level U.S. diplomats have concluded that Cuba should no longer be designated a state sponsor of terrorism.” Yet the ink was barely dry on that report before both the White House and State Department utterly repudiated any notion that Cuba would soon be de-listed as a state sponsor of terrorism.

As I have written in this space before, de-listing Cuba has been a long-sought goal of a die-hard cadre of critics of the United States’ Cuba policy. Why? Well, it seems that the Castro regime, which was born in terrorist violence, aided and abetted it across four continents over three decades, and whose training camps produced such international luminaries as Carlos the Jackal, is upset that it continues to be listed as a state-sponsor of terrorism. And, what’s more, Washington policymakers ought to be vexed by that, because it is an “obstacle” to normalized relations. It turns out that the Globe report was simple mischief-making by some apparently inconsequential U.S. official, clearly meant to provide succor to the de-listing campaign. As was noted deeper in the story, “U.S. officials emphasized that there has not been a formal assessment concluding that Cuba should be removed from the terrorism list and said serious obstacles remain to a better relationship, especially the imprisonment of [development worker Alan] Gross.”

Still, since the subject has been raised, it’s worthwhile to examine just what it has taken for other countries to be removed from the state sponsors list. In 2007, Libya was de-listed after Muammar al-Qaddafi terminated his WMD program and renounced terrorism by severing ties with radical groups, closing training camps, and extraditing terrorism suspects. He also accepted responsibility for the Pan Am 103 bombing and paid compensation to the victims.

In 2008, in a controversial decision, the Bush administration de-listed North Korea for progress that was being made on ending the country’s nuclear program.

Clearly, removal from the list usually follows some pro-active, game-changing actions by a country. What pro-active measures has Cuba ever adopted? The answer is none. Just being too broke to support terrorism anymore hardly merits any action on the U.S. part.

Moreover, according to the law, before de-listing, an administration must not only certify to Congress that a country has not provided any support for international terrorism during the preceding six-month period, but that it has provided assurances that it will not support acts of international terrorism in the future.

In Cuba’s case, even if relevant U.S. agencies can conclude that the Castro regime has not provided material support for a terrorist act in the last six months — that is, apart from its terrorizing of its own people, which continues apace — where is the regime’s public renouncement of its past support for international terrorism and assurance that it will not support any acts in the future?

Is even that too much to demand? Of course, it is. The Castro regime will not issue any such statement because it doesn’t believe it has done anything wrong since 1959. They maintain that they are the victims of U.S. policy and are deserving of all the concessions, without any quid pro quo. The regime can no more renounce terrorism than renounce their totalitarian state — and that is why they belong on the terrorism list until they give the U.S. government a real reason to be taken off.

Cuba’s American Hostage Reply

The White House calls for the release of Alan Gross but puts scant pressure on Havana to let him go.

By MAURICIO CLAVER-CARONE

Since December 2009, American development worker Alan Gross has been imprisoned by the Castro regime for trying to help Cuba’s Jewish community connect to the Internet. For that Mr. Gross—who was in Cuba as a contractor for the U.S. Agency for International Development—was arrested, convicted in a sham trial and sentenced to 15 years.

The White House and State Department have repeatedly called for Alan Gross’s “immediate release.” The Gross family’s legal team urged the family to keep a low profile, thinking it could negotiate his release. (The family ended that representation earlier this year.)

But Fidel and Raúl Castro don’t typically react to discretion and haven’t felt much U.S. pressure on this case. Even after Mr. Gross was seized, the administration sought rapprochement with Havana and continued talks in 2010 and 2011. It also has continued to ease U.S. sanctions on Cuba.

Mr. Gross’s sister, Bonnie Rubinstein, recently led a protest in front of the Cuban Interests Section—a de facto embassy—in Washington, D.C., seeking her brother’s release. She feels “he’s being ignored” and says, “Alan does not want to be forgotten. He doesn’t want to be left there. He wants people to know about him.”

It’s easy to understand her concern. In April 2009, the Obama administration eliminated all restrictions on Cuban-American travel and remittances to Cuba, which became the centerpiece of our nation’s new “Cuba policy.” Those actions predated Mr. Gross’s arrest. However, after Mr. Gross was seized in December of that year and throughout 2010, while he was being held without trial, the administration took various steps that, collectively, seem incomprehensible.

Article continues here:  http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10000872396390443324404577594870481241852.html