The Obama Administration soon will be releasing its list of countries that support international terrorism. Currently on the list are: Iran, Sudan, Syria and Cuba. Cuba has been listed since 1982 but Reps. James P. McGovern, D-Mass., and Kathy Castor, D-Fl., propose to remove Cuba from the list. They argue that because Raúl Castro has taken control of the island from his brother Fidel, Cuba no longer poses a threat to the United States.
An article appearing in Sunday’s [April 21] Washington Post presents a less benign appraisal of Cuba’s intentions. The author, Jim Popkin, focuses on the career of a Pentagon intelligence analyst, Ana Montes, who for 17 years fed highly classified information about the U.S. military to the Cuban government, which the Castro brothers routinely shared with their anti-American allies. The unrepetant spy is serving a 25-year sentence in a U.S. penitentiary.
Nevertheless, some say Havana is still listed as a terrorist state because the United States is “locked in a Cold War time warp.” They ignore that it is Raúl and his ailing brother, Fidel, who refuse to change. Repeatedly, President Obama has tried to extend a U.S. “hand of friendship,” inviting Cuba to open its angry fists. Neither Fidel nor Raúl respond. For example, four years ago when Cuba was mired in economic crisis, Obama lifted restrictions on remittances, a flow of millions into the island from Cuban Americans to their relatives. Obama suggested Havana respond by lifting its confiscatory taxes on this person-to-person assistance. Cuba ignored Obama’s entreaty.
Can we learn from the past? A previous administration tried “to improve relations” with North Korea by removing that country from the list. The gesture emboldened that government’s belligerence and tensions between us are now greater.
To remove any government from the list, the president must receive and then send assurances to Congress from the listed government that it no longer engages in or supports terrorism. If President Obama has received such assurances, they remain his secret.
The Washington Post article reports that “U.S. military and intelligence agencies spent years assessing the fallout from Montes crimes.” Last year they told Congress that Montes was “one of the most damaging spies in U.S. history” passing information that “likely contributed to the death and injury of American and pro-American forces in Latin America.” One tidbit of evidence discovered was a “thank-you” note to her for giving the regime the name of an undercover agent working in Cuba, “We were waiting here for him with open arms.”
Montes’ Defense Intelligence Agency briefing to the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the National Security Council asserted that Cuba was no longer a threat or even capable of harming the United States. Whether one wants to believe that or not, Cuba remains a strong, steadfast ally of North Korea, Syria and Iran. It also has links with ETA, the separatist-Basque terrorist organization, and with similar groups worldwide.
President Obama vowed to “bring to justice” anyone responsible for the Boston Marathon terrorist attack. President Bill Clinton pledged in 1996 to bring to justice those responsible for shooting down two, small and unarmed, American planes over the Straits of Florida, killing four men. We know the names of the Cuban MIG pilots, the spy who provided information as to when and where the Miami-based Brothers to the Rescue would be flying over the Straits of Florida searching for rafters. And the name of the man who ordered the shoot-down: Raúl Castro, then head of the Cuban military, now Cuba’s president.
In 40 years, Raúl has never repudiated Fidel’s warning: “If the Cuban state were to carry out terrorist acts and respond with terrorism, we believe we would be efficient terrorists. Let no one think otherwise. If we decide to carry out terrorism, it is a sure thing we would be efficient. That the Cuban revolution has never implemented terrorism does not mean that we renounce it.”
There is good reason to continue listing Cuba as a state supporting terrorism, and good reason for Washington to seek justice for those Americans murdered in the Straits of Florida and for Cubans who have been killed for their quest for freedom.
Frank Calzon is executive director of the Center for a Free Cuba.