Alarm Grows that Cuba Could Abuse Interpol After Handing Biden Admin List of ‘Terrorist’ U.S.-Based Anti-Communists

The Associated Press
The Associated Press

A prominent Canadian human rights organization, Democratic Spaces, condemned the communist government of Cuba recently for its “distorted use of Interpol’s Red Notice system,” warning the Castro regime appears poised to attempt to curb the right to free movement of a list of “terrorists” that includes prominent human rights activists, journalists, and Youtubers.

The communist regime published this list of 61 people in December. Law enforcement officials within the regime handed the list over to their American counterparts on February 7 as part of an initiative under leftist President Joe Biden known as the “U.S. – Cuba Law Enforcement Dialogue.”

The Cuban Ministry of Foreign Relations (Minrex) noted that it handed over its list of “terrorists” while simultaneously demanding America remove Cuba from its list of State Sponsors of Terrorism. Cuba belongs on that list for its close ties to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), a Marxist narco-terrorist organization, and to the government of Iran – the world’s premier state sponsor of terrorism – and proxies such as Hezbollah.

The Cuban Ministry of the Interior, responsible for much of the regime’s political repression, claimed the list included “committers and promotors of terrorist acts,” including those “who incite, organize, and finance actions that affect the social order in Cuba.” In reality, the list consisted of a small number of individuals accused of actual criminal violence and a large number of journalists, human rights activists, and prominent conservative voices in the Cuban-American community. Included on that list are prominent YouTubers Alexander Otaola, one of the most influential voices on politics in the Miami area, and Alain “Paparazzi Cubano,” a YouTuber who similarly blends celebrity gossip stories with original reporting on human rights abuses by the regime.

Orlando Gutiérrez-Boronat – the coordinator of the Assembly of the Cuban Resistance, a longtime human rights advocate, and Breitbart News contributor – also appeared on the list of “terrorists.” In December, Gutiérrez-Boronat told Breitbart News, “the Biden administration cannot take for granted the systematic pattern of harassment, intimidation, and even murders carried out by the Cuban dictatorship against U.S. citizens.”

Adding to the lack of credibility of the list was the fact that at least two of the people on it were dead.

Handing the list over to American officials this month appeared to be a move by Havana to legitimize the branding of the people on it as criminals. The State Department, in a readout of the meeting published on February 7, did not confirm the receipt of a list of alleged criminals in America and instead touted the meeting with the criminal regime as positive, as it allegedly “enhances the national security of the United States through improved law enforcement coordination” with a state sponsor of terrorism.

“The United States integrates advocacy for human rights and human rights protections into all interactions with the Cuban government,” the State Department claimed.

Asked directly about the list of alleged “terrorists” by the Cuban-American news agency Martí Noticias, an unnamed State Department official simply said the Biden administration was “aware” of the list.

“The accusations that the United States is fomenting violent actions against the Cuban government are absurd,” the official reportedly added. “These accusations are the most recent version of the efforts by Cuban authorities to disparage emigrants who exercise their freedom of expression, including their freedom to criticize the poor human rights history and relentless persecution of Cuba.”

Democratic Spaces warned that the Castro regime may also be seeking Interpol Red Notices against them, which would result in these individuals losing the ability to travel freely as they could, at any moment, be arrested and extradited to Cuba.

The “Red Notice” is “a request to law enforcement worldwide to locate and provisionally arrest a person pending extradition, surrender, or similar legal action,” according to Interpol. No obligation exists on the part of other member states to arrest the person, but given that many of the individuals targeted are not well-known to the law enforcement agencies of foreign governments, countries may choose to immediately arrest the person before investigating who they are or how they wound up on the Red Notice list.

Democratic Spaces noted that the Castro regime confirmed it handed over its list of “terrorists” to Interpol.

“This manipulation aims to persecute, arrest, imprison, defame, restrict freedom of movement, and silence critics globally. We view this as a clear instance of transnational repression,” the organization affirmed.

“The impact of a Red Notice on rights defenders can be damaging, as it has the potential to severely limit freedom of movement, lead to arrest, and, in the most severe cases, result in deportation to an authoritarian, non-Rule of Law country,” the Canadian organization explained. “Due to the fact that most Red Notices are not made public by Interpol (Of the approximately 62,000 Red Notices currently in circulation, about 55,000 are not public), the person who is being sought may not be aware of it, putting them at risk, especially in non-Rule of Law countries.”

Democratic Spaces urged Interpol to engage in “a thorough examination, scrutiny, and potential sanctions” against Cuba for spurious Red Notice requests. It added that the claims against many of those on the list that their attempt to disrupt “social order” on the island lack “credibility,” as Cuba is “well-known for systematically conducting character assassination campaigns against journalists, activists, and members of civil society who openly criticize its arbitrary policies.”

“At various points in the recent history of the regime, derogatory labels have been used to collectively dehumanize Cubans based on their sexual orientation, religion, political views, and, for several decades, against anyone who chose to leave the country,” the group added.

Democratic Spaces observed that left-wing authoritarian regimes – prominently including Russia, China, and Turkey – have for years attempted to abuse the Red Notice system to silence prominent dissenters and prevent them from traveling freely out of fear of being arrested. Russia is currently under “special measures” to limit it from submitting Red Notice requests, the NGO recalled, as a result of its abuse of the system. Another notable abuser of the system is Islamist Turkey, which has flooded Interpol with spurious demands for Red Notices against members of Hizmet, the Islamic movement run by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s top political nemesis Fethullah Gülen.

In 2017, reports surfaced that Turkey attempted to upload Red Notice requests for 60,000 people into the Interpol system and Interpol responded by locking them out. Interpol denied the claims, but most of the requests did not result in a formal Red Notice. Turkey did successfully manipulate the Interpol system to harass former NBA player Enes Kanter Freedom, a vocal critic of communism generally and Erdogan specifically, before his obtaining U.S. citizenship.

“As human rights defenders, we urge INTERPOL to swiftly implement effective measures preventing the manipulation of Red Notices as a tool for transnational repression by the Cuban regime and other authoritarian governments worldwide,” Democratic Spaces concluded. “We call on INTERPOL to abide by its own rules, suspending regimes that consistently abuse its mechanisms.”

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