Groups, States Supported by Cuba Continue to Spread Terror

U.S. officials consider removing Castro regime from terror list

Raul Castro
Raul Castro / AP
• February 10, 2015 5:05 pm


U.S. officials are considering removing Cuba from a list of state sponsors of terrorism, even as Cuban allies continue to launch military attacks and trade for weapons.

As part of President Barack Obama’s announcement in December that he would normalize relations with Cuba, Obama instructed Secretary of State John Kerry to review Cuba’s terror designation and issue a report in six months.

While reports indicate that the administration is leaning toward removing Cuba from the terror list, such an action would conflict with the Cuban regime’s support for Colombian militants, Iran, and North Korea.

Cuban President Raul Castro and his government have been hosting peace talks since 2012 between the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), a communist insurgency that has battled the Colombian military since the 1960s in a conflict claiming 200,000 deaths. U.S. diplomatic cables leaked in 2010 revealed that Cuba had harbored FARC militants and formed close ties with the group’s political wing.

Despite the Cuban-sponsored negotiations aimed at ending the internal Colombian conflict, the FARC has not halted its belligerent actions. Talks were temporarily suspended last November after the FARC captured a Colombian general. The Marxist rebels have also attacked oil installations and civilians throughout the negotiating period and largely finance their operations by trafficking cocaine.

Colombia’s military intercepted a shipment of Russian-made anti-aircraft rockets last week that were headed to the FARC, according to regional reports. The rebel insurgency has increased its arm purchases during the talks.

A State Department spokesperson said in an email that, "the United States is an unwavering supporter of the Colombian government’s efforts to achieve a negotiated peace and to bring an end to decades of violence." The spokesperson did not say whether Cuba’s support for the FARC and the group’s attacks during the peace talks in Havana would affect discussions about removing Cuba from the terror list.

"That review is underway, and as the president instructed, is guided by the facts and the law," the spokesperson said.

Cuba remains a close ally of Iran and has helped it develop military partnerships and criminal networks within Latin American countries, according to some analysts. The Islamic regime in Tehran is widely regarded as the world’s foremost sponsor of terrorism, including militant groups in Gaza, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Yemen, and Bahrain.

"Iran used the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Qods Force (IRGC-QF) and its regional proxy groups to implement foreign policy goals, provide cover for intelligence operations, and create instability in the Middle East," the State Department said in its most recent country reports on terrorism.

Additionally, Cuba attempted to ship Soviet-era MiG-21 fighter jets, air defense systems, missiles, and command and control vehicles to North Korea in 2013—a violation of the United Nations ban on arms transfers to the communist country. Panamanian officials seized the weapons after discovering that they were concealed under bags of sugar.

Castro said in a speech last month that the United States must remove Cuba from the terror list before he would consider normalizing relations, as well as return the Guantanamo Bay military base to his government and repeal the long-standing trade embargo. Roberta Jacobson, assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere Affairs, told lawmakers last week that the United States would not relinquish Guantanamo but would continue holding talks to seek a rapprochement with Cuba.

U.S. lawmakers from both parties have blasted what they call "secret" negotiations between White House officials and the Cuban regime before Obama’s formal announcement in December of reestablishing ties.

"As if negotiating in secret is not bad enough, the Castro regime continues to defy this administration, as the chairman and ranking member said, by setting preconditions publicly on the negotiations, such as demanding the return of land of Guantanamo, which is so vital to U.S. national security interests," said Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R., Fla.), a Cuban-American lawmaker and staunch critic of Castro, during the hearing with Jacobson.

"It’s so pathetic for this strong, wonderful, generous country to look so weak when negotiating with the Castro regime."