President Donald Trump’s strong opposition to terrorism, during his successful campaign, his recent speech to Arab leaders in Riyadh, and comments following the Manchester bombing, are welcome. Now, media reports indicate the administration is reevaluating U.S.-Cuba policy. It can be hoped that as Trump will look south to Cuba, he factor in that the island nation has long supported terrorism and terrorists.
Gen. Raúl Castro, succeeded his late brother Fidel, who for many years sent agents to sow terrorism in Latin American and Europe. Today, Cuba continues to harbor a convicted American terrorist: Joanne Chesimard. She is a fugitive on the FBI’s Most Wanted list. Indeed, the FBI is offering $1 million for information leading to her capture and arrest. In 1977, Chesimard was convicted of the cold-blooded murder of a New Jersey state trooper, sentenced to life in prison, but fled to Cuba where Fidel Castro granted her “asylum.”
As we know, President Obama acquiesced to Raúl Castro’s request to remove Cuba from the State Department’s list of countries supporting terrorists in a deal to restore diplomatic relations. Chesimard has not been returned to United States to face American justice. Instead, she speaks to American college students visiting Havana. She, of course, speaks glowingly about the Castros’ dynasty.
She’s not the only terrorist to be welcomed in Cuba. Oscar Lopez Rivera is a Puerto Rican terrorist whose sentence was commuted by Obama. Raúl Castro sent his congratulations and invited him to visit the “socialist island nation.” Lopez Rivera spent more than 35 years in U.S. penitentiaries for his role in a series of deadly bombings in New York City and Chicago. He is one of the militants of the infamous FALN (Armed Forces for National Liberation) that in 1975 blew up Fraunces Tavern in Manhattan. Four died, scores were injured.
Chesimard claims to be an American “exile.” Lopez Rivera says he was “a political prisoner.”
This is not all. A summary of Havana’s support for terrorism should include the heist of $7 million from Wells Fargo in West Hartford, Connecticut, in 1983. The money was taken to the Cuban Embassy in Mexico and turned over to the regime. Castro’s Cuba has also been associated with the infamous terrorist Carlos, who in 1975 kidnapped 70 hostages in Vienna (three people were killed) at a meeting of oil ministers from OPEC. “Carlos” who committed several murders in France was, according to The Guardian, provided by Cuba “with passports, money and five apartments in Paris.” As a result, the Quai d’Orsay expelled several Cuban diplomats.
In 2014 Obama pardoned a convicted Cuban spy, who was serving two life sentences in the United States, for his role in planning with Cuba’s military the 1996 shoot-down of two small single-engine planes in international airspace over the Florida Straits. Four men — three American citizens and a legal resident born in Cuba — died. Raúl Castro, then minister of the armed forces, pinned medals on the MIG pilots who murdered them. Upon his release and return to Cuba, the spy was given a hero’s welcome and continues, to this day, to be part of Havana’s anti-American disinformation campaign.
Then there was Fidel Castro’s 1976 speech, in which he denied Cuba engaged in terrorism while issuing a threat to the world, and to the United States in particular: “If the Cuban state were to carry out terrorist acts and respond with terrorism to terrorists, we believe we would be efficient terrorists. Let no one think otherwise. …The mere fact that the Cuban Revolution has never implemented terrorism does not mean we renounce it. We would like to issue this warning” —which became reality.
President Trump and his administration should take heed. Raúl Castro exerts total control over Cuba, but has never renounced or contradicted his late brother. The regime continues to support and protect terrorists. A tough global counter-terror policy must drop Obama's exemption for Cuba.
Frank Calzon is executive director of the Center for a Free Cuba, based in Washington, D. C.