The week before Joe Biden was sworn in as president, President Trump put Cuba back on the list of State Sponsors of Terrorism (SSOT) to curry favor with Cuban-Americans, as a sop to such hard-line congressional reps as Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL), and one assumes above all as a final stab at President Obama’s legacy.
The SSOT designation (which placed Cuba alongside Iran, North Korea, and Syria) reversed the Obama administration’s 2015 removal of Cuba from the list following Obama’s announcement on December 17, 2014, of normalization of diplomatic relations between the two countries. He did so with congressional approval, citing lack of evidence that Cuba was providing support for international terrorism.
Nonetheless, on January 12, 2021, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, in re-adding Cuba to the SSOT list, accused the Cuban government of “repeatedly providing support for acts of international terrorism” by harboring U.S. fugitives and Colombian rebel leaders. Pompeo was referring to asylum granted by Cuba in 1984 to Black Panther activist Joanne Chesimard (aka Assata Shakur), whose long residence in Cuba did not prevent President Obama from removing the country from SSOT. Meanwhile, a few ex-FARC guerrilla leaders reside in Cuba with the express support of the Colombian government following Cuba’s acting as host for the peace talks that ended with FARC being disbanded. (I highly recommend you read Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos’ autobiography, The Battle for Peace: The Long Road to Ending the War with the World’s Oldest Guerrilla Army, which unequivocally praises Cuba for its efforts to help end terrorism and armed conflict in Colombia.) Diaz-Balart, Rubio, and Co., also like to accuse Cuba of “harboring” ETA Basque terrorists: they too reside in Cuba as part of a deal with Spain, in the same manner as Uruguay agreed to take Taliban and Al-Qaeda terrorists released from U.S. custody in Guantánamo detention camp (our illegally held base in Cuba).
Forget Assata Shakur. It’s a phony issue! The unfounded calumny of the SSOT designation is Florida exile politics, pure and simple.
The Cuban people adore Obama for the improvement that his loosening of travel restrictions and money remittances brought to their daily lives. In Cuba, Trump is odium for the significant additional hardships caused by his reversal of Obama’s openings on travel and wire remittances, and his redesignation of Cuba as a SSOT nation. Unfortunately, SSOT seriously hampers Cuba’s ability to trade internationally, and to function in the international financial system, further adding to Cubans’ economic woes. (It also denies U.S. visa waivers for Europeans and others who wish to visit the USA if they have previously visited Cuba.)
Meanwhile, Colombia’s President Gustavo Petro has asked Secretary of State Antony Blinken to lift SSOT (once again, U.S. policy towards Cuba is creating disharmony in our relations with countries throughout the Americas).
President Biden has yet to reverse the SSOT designation, which has massive negative consequences for Cuba… and for the well-being of the average Cuban.
You can join the national campaign to end this absurd, self-defeating, and immoral situation by posting a message to the White House contact form advocating Cuba’s removal from the SSOT list. (Click https://www.whitehouse.gov/contact/ )
Meanwhile, Florida Representative Maria Salazar has submitted a bill in Congress to end the power of the White House and State Department to remove Cuba’s designation as a State Sponsor of Terrorism. It goes to full committee mark-up at 10 a.m. on Monday, March 28. Members of the Foreign Affairs Committee are here. If your Representative is on the list, please don’t hesitate to ask her or him to oppose this bill.