The White House announced today that Cuba will be removed from the State Department’s list of state sponsors of terrorism, despite its ties to Marxist, jihadist, and other separatist terrorist organizations. The removal of the state sponsor of terror label is believed to be the beginning of diplomatic relations with Cuba that can lead to the potential establishment of a U.S. embassy in Havana.
The Associated Press reports that President Obama stated Cuba “has not provided any support for international terrorism” in six months, despite the presence of almost every senior official of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), a Marxist terrorist group, in Havana. President Obama also claimed that the Cuban government had “provided assurances that it will not support acts of international terrorism in the future.” White House Press Secretary Joshua Earnest addressed Cuba’s widespread human rights abuses by stating that American “concerns over a wide range of Cuba’s policies and actions fall outside the criteria that is relevant to whether to rescind Cuba’s designation as a state sponsor of terrorism.”
President Obama had stated last week that the White House was prepared to “act quickly” upon the arrival of an official recommendation from the Department of State on whether Cuba should remain on the list of state sponsors of terrorism, along with Iran, Sudan, and Syria. The Cuban government had been vocally demanding their removal from the list as a requirement of “normalization” with the American government, in addition to the Guantánamo Bay military base, in exchange for “nothing at all.” In addition to Cuban dictator Raúl Castro stating that Cuba would yield nothing in exchange for these concessions, top Cuban diplomat Josefina Vidal said during talks with her American counterpart Roberta Jacobson that any change on the part of the Cuban government is “non-negotiable.”
The communist Cuban regime has significant ties to a number of different terrorist organizations; little evidence corroborates President Obama’s claim that the Cuban government no longer works with terrorist groups. As noted above, senior FARC officials remain in Havana, fugitives of the Colombian government. The FARC, the world’s wealthiest non-jihadist terror group, has killed hundreds of thousands in its decades of activity. The FARC’s most recent attack resulted in the murder of a Colombian soldier in March.
The Cuban government has also been implicated in repeated instances of supporting Iranian-sponsored terrorism, particularly the activities of the Shiite terrorist group Hezbollah. In 2011, an Italian newspaper reported that Hezbollah was secretly planning to establish a base in Havana to better organize its activities in Latin America. Since 2011, Hezbollah has expanded its sphere of influence deep into Venezuela, where state officials were found to have been fundraising for the terror group, and Argentina, where Hezbollah is strongly suspected of being involved in the murder of prominent prosecutor Alberto Nisman.
Reports have surfaced that, in addition to aiding logistical activities, the Cuban government helped its Venezuelan allies manufacture counterfeit passports for wanted Hezbollah agents, to allow them easier access into the United States and Canada.
Cuba cheered the recent tentative Iranian nuclear deal between that nation and a coalition of Western nations known as the P5+1, which would allow Iranian officials to continue enriching Uranian and may result in an end to sanctions on the Iranian regime. In an article titled “The Iranian Nuclear Program is no Longer an Utopia,” state-sponsored Granma newspaper praised the deal as “much more than what was expected” and “the end of unilateral sanctions that… has affected the development of a nation with much potential, where two-thirds of its 78 million inhabitants are under 35 years of age.”