The U.S. designation of Cuba as a “state sponsor of terrorism” already has been shown to be ridiculous.
Now the U.S. has done it again in the State Department’s recently released Country Reports on Terrorism 2010. The following is the complete text of the U.S. “rationale” for so designating Cuba:
- “Overview: Designated as a State Sponsor of Terrorism in 1982, the Government of Cuba maintained a public stance against terrorism and terrorist financing in 2010, but there was no evidence that it had severed ties with elements from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and recent media reports indicate some current and former members of the Basque Fatherland and Liberty (ETA) continue to reside in Cuba. Available information suggested that the Cuban government maintained limited contact with FARC members, but there was no evidence of direct financial or ongoing material support. In March, the Cuban government allowed Spanish Police to travel to Cuba to confirm the presence of suspected ETA members.
- Cuba continued to denounce U.S. counterterrorism efforts throughout the world, portraying them as a pretext to extend U.S. influence and power.
- Cuba has been used as a transit point by third-country nationals looking to enter illegally into the United State. The Government of Cuba is aware of the border integrity and transnational security concerns posed by such transit and investigated third country migrant smuggling and related criminal activities. In November, the government allowed representatives of the Transportation Security Administration to conduct a series of airport security visits throughout the island.
- Legislation and Law Enforcement: Cuba did not pass new counterterrorism legislation in 2010. The Cuban government continued to aggressively pursue persons suspected of terrorist acts in Cuba. In July, Venezuela extradited Salvadoran national Francisco Antonio Chavez Abarca to Cuba for his alleged role in a number of hotel and tourist location bombings in the mid to late 1990s. In December, a Cuban court convicted Chavez Abarca on terrorism charges and sentenced him to 30 years in prison. Also in December, the Cuban Supreme Court commuted the death sentences of two Salvadorans, René Cruz León and Otto René Rodríguez Llerena, who had been convicted of terrorism, and sentenced them both to 30 years.
- Regional and International Cooperation: Cuba did not sponsor counterterrorism initiatives or participate in regional or global operations against terrorists in 2010.”
One of the implicit factual predicates for the most recent designation of Cuba as a “state sponsor of terrorism” is true: FARC and ETA have been designated “Foreign Terrorist Organizations” by the State Department, and such designations presumably are well founded. But what has Cuba done with respect to these two organizations? This report itself indicates that Cuba has done practically nothing with or for the FARC or ETA. The report states, “the Cuban government maintained limited contact with FARC members” and “there was no evidence of direct financial or ongoing material support.” (Emphasis added.) In addition, the report says, “the Cuban government allowed Spanish Police to travel to Cuba to confirm the presence of suspected ETA members.”
The most recent report states “some current and former members of . . . (ETA) continue to reside in Cuba.” But the report does not say how many. Nor does it state the particulars of their residence in Cuba. Moreover, in last year’s report, the State Department conceded that some of these FARC and ETA members were in Cuba to participate in peace negotiations with the governments of Columbia and Spain.
Other qualifications to this basis for the “state sponsor of terrorism” designation were made in a prior State Department annual antiterrorism report, which said that “on July 6, 2008, former Cuban President Fidel Castro called on the FARC to release the hostages they were holding [in Colombia] without preconditions.” Fidel “also had condemned the FARC’s mistreatment of captives and of their abduction of civilian politicians [in Colombia] who had no role in the armed conflict.”
Furthermore, former President Jimmy Carter while visiting Cuba in March 2011 had a meeting with the Spanish and Colombian Ambassadors to Cuba. The two Ambassadors said “they were not concerned about the presence of members of FARC, ETA, and ELN [another Colombian rebel group] in Cuba. Indeed, they maintained that this enhances their ability to deal more effectively with these groups. In fact, ETA members are there at the request of the Spanish government.”
The second basis for the most recent designation is “Cuba continued to denounce U.S. counterterrorism efforts throughout the world, portraying them as a pretext to extend U.S. influence and power.” From my following Cuba news over the last year, this is a fair assessment, in my opinion, of the Cuban government’s public statements about U.S. foreign policy. But Cuba is a sovereign nation. It has a right to express its views of U.S. policies and actions. This does not amount to Cuba or any other country’s being a “state sponsor of terrorism.”
The third basis for the most recent designation is Cuba’s allegedly being “used as a transit point by third-country nationals looking to enter illegally into the United States.” I do not know if this is true, but even if it is, Cuba is hardly unique in the Western Hemisphere for this phenomenon. And the U.S. report admits that this last year Cuba “allowed representatives of the [TSA] . . . to conduct a series of airport security visits throughout the island.”
The fourth basis for the most recent designation is Cuba’s not adopting new counterterrorism legislation in 2010 and not sponsoring counterterrorism initiatives or participating in regional or global operations against terrorists in 2010. Again, I do not know if this is true, but even if it is, it does not justify the designation. Moreover, the report undermines this purported basis for the designation with its admission that the “Cuban government continued to aggressively pursue persons suspected of terrorist acts in Cuba.”
In short, the U.S. has no legitimate basis for designating Cuba as a “state sponsor of terrorism.”
 See Post: The Ridiculous U.S. Designation of Cuba as a “State Sponsor of Terrorism” (May 20, 2011).
 U.S. Dep’t of State, Country Reports on Terrorism 2010 (Aug. 19, 2011), http://www.state.gov/s/ct/rls/crt/2010/index.htm; DeYoung, Terorrism report arrives with a whimper, Wash. Post (Aug. 19, 2011). The Cuban government immediately denounced this report, saying Cuba had an “unblemished” record of fighting terrorism. (Assoc. Press, Cuba Rejects Continued Inclusion on US Terror List, N.Y. Times (Aug. 20, 2011).)
 The Carter Center, Trip Report by Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter to Cuba, March 28-30, 2011 (April 1, 2011), http://www.cartercenter.org/news/trip_reports/cuba-march2011.html.
 Last year the Council on Foreign Relations basically came to the same conclusion. (Council on Foreign Relations, State Sponsors: Cuba (March 23, 2010), http://www.cfr.org/cuba/state-sponsors-cuba/p9359.)This July the U.S. Congressional Research Service reviewed the arguments, pro and con, for the designation of Cuba as a “state sponsor of terrorism.” It did not come to a conclusion as to whether the designation was justified, but it does not rebut my analysis. (See Congressional Research Service, Cuba: Issues for the 112th Congress (July 15, 2011), http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/row/R41617.pdf.