CubaBrief: Castro regime’s Continuous Support for Terrorism

For six decades Castro regime agents have plotted and facilitated terrorist attacks, attacked and bitten protesters , and participated in the cover up of extrajudicial killings.

Cuban diplomats Elsa Montera Maldonado and Jose Gomez Abad, a husband and wife team at the Cuba Mission in New York City, who in reality were State Security agents who plotted to murder large numbers of Americans. Both were expelled for their role in a planned terrorist attack on the Friday after Thanksgiving in 1962 which sought to detonate 500 kilos of explosives inside Macy’s, Gimbel’s, Bloomingdale’s and Manhattan’s Grand Central Terminal.

Cuban diplomats plotted bombing attack in NYC

Cuban diplomats plotted bombing attack in NYC

Castro’s Cuba even by the standards of a totalitarian regime does not behave as expected. Cuba’s dictatorship has explicitly viewed terrorism as a legitimate tactic to advance its revolutionary objectives. In 1970 the Cuban government published the “Mini Manual for Revolutionaries” in the official Latin American Solidarity Organization (LASO) publication Tricontinental and translated it into many languages, written by Brazilian urban terrorist Carlos Marighella, which gives precise instructions in terror tactics, kidnappings, etc. and translated into numerous languages which were distributed worldwide by the Cuban dictatorship. There is a chapter on terrorism that declares, “Terrorism is a weapon the revolutionary can never relinquish.”

This manual is still circulating today and the Cuban dictatorship has trained terrorists that targeted the United States and other countries in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s with acts of violence with the objective of altering political behavior. John Hoyt Williams in a 1988 article in The Atlantic reported: “In the Arab world some 3,000 [Cuban advisers] can be found in Libya and Algeria, among other things training terrorists and Polisario guerrillas.”

Efforts to subvert the Colombian government through a combination of training and arming communist guerilla groups while funding them through drug trafficking did not lead to the overthrow of Colombian democracy but it did lead to the Castro regime being placed on the U.S. State Department’s list of state sponsors of terrorism on March 1, 1982.

Cuba’s governing officials were not always like this. Cuban diplomats prior to the Castro regime advanced international human rights standards both at the United Nations and the Organization of American States. Daniel Pedreira, a former program officer at the Center for a Free Cuba and a PhD student at Florida International University describes this legacy in the article, “‘New approach’ to Cuba must rely on realistic historical assessments” published in UPI on August 29, 2019.

For many, it is hard to imagine that 75 years ago, the United States and Cuba enjoyed excellent relations. Upon his appointment in late-1944, Guillermo Belt Ramírez (1905-1989) came to exemplify Cuban foreign policy toward the United States. It would have been hard to imagine in December 1944, as Belt took his post as Cuban ambassador to the United States, that 40 U.S. embassy employees would suffer “from a range of concussion-like symptoms, including balance problems, memory lapses, difficulty concentrating, insomnia, headaches and nausea.”

The Cuban Studies Institute in their report “Cuba’s Continuous Support for Terrorism” provides an important update on the continuing support for terrorism. However it is important to remember that prior to the Castro regime Cuba’s governments did not have a history of supporting terrorism.

Cuban Studies Institute, August 29, 2019

A publication of the Cuban Studies Institute

Cuba’s Continuous Support for Terrorism

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Staff Report*

Although Cuba was removed in 2015 from the U.S. State Department list of countries supporting terrorism, General Raul Castro’s regime continues to collaborate with terrorist groups and countries, and harbors U.S., Spanish, and Colombian terrorists in the island.

Iran, Cuba and Venezuela have developed a close and cooperative relationship against the U.S. and in support of terrorist groups and states. The three regimes increasingly coordinate their policies and resources in a three-way partnership aimed at counteracting and circumventing U.S. policies in the Middle East and Latin America. Within this relationship, Cuba plays a strategic role in terms of geography (proximity to the U.S.), intelligence gathering (both electronic eavesdropping and human espionage) logistics, and training.

In addition to its proven technical prowess to interfere and intercept U.S. telecommunications, Cuba has deployed around the world a highly effective human intelligence network. The type of espionage carried out by Ana Belén Montes, the senior U.S. defense intelligence analyst who spied for Cuba during some 16 years until her arrest in 2001, has enabled the Castro regime to amass a wealth of intelligence on U.S. vulnerabilities as well as a keen understanding of the inner-workings of the U.S. security system.

Such information and analysis are being provided to strategic allies like Iran. While one may argue that factors such as Iran’s limited military capabilities and sheer distance diminish any conventional concerns, one should expect that Tehran, in case of a U.S.-Iran conflict, would launch an asymmetrical offensive against the U.S. and its European allies through surrogate terrorist states and paramilitary organizations. In such a scenario, Cuban intelligence would be invaluable to Iran and its proxies, and Cuban territory could be used by terrorist groups to launch operations against the U.S.

Following is recent evidence of Cuba’s involvement with terrorism:

  • Cuba directly and through Venezuela continues to provide intelligence to Hamas and Hezbollah.

  • Hezbollah, on orders from Hasan Nasrallah, set up an operational base in Cuba.

  • Working in coordination with the Cuban government, Venezuela is promoting Hezbollah and Iranian targets in South America and against the U.S. They fundraise for Hezbollah, facilitate travel for Hezbollah activists to Venezuela, and through Venezuela to other countries. This is all part of the strategic alliance between Venezuela, Cuba and Iran.

  • Cuban military officers are acting as liaison between Venezuelan military and the narco-guerrillas of the Colombian FARC. Cuban General Leonardo Ramon Andollo, Chief of Operations of the Cuban MINFAR (Ministry of the Armed Forces), has visited Venezuela several times and acted as a go between the Cuban and Venezuelan military involved in drug trafficking.

  • On May 19, 2019, the Panamanian Naval Services (SENAM Panama) announced that they confiscated thousands of packages of cocaine hidden in carbon bags that originated in Cuba and were destined for Turkey.

  • The FBI estimates that Cuba has provided safe harbor to dozens of fugitives from U.S. justice who live on the island under the protection of the Castro regime. Some of these fugitives are charged with or have been convicted of murder, kidnapping, and hijacking, and they include notorious killers of police officers in New Jersey and New Mexico, most prominent among them Joanne Chesimard (Assata Shakur), placed by the FBI in 2013 on the “Most Wanted Terrorist List.” The FBI is offering two million dollars for information leading to her apprehension.

  • Other terrorists fugitives of the U.S. living in Cuba include Ishmael LaBeet, one of the five men convicted of the infamous Fountain Valley Massacre, a racially tinged 1972-armed robbery in the Virgin Islands that turned into mass murder, with eight dead. Guillermo Morales, the master bomb-maker of the Puerto Rican separatist group FALN, which set off 140 or so blasts around the United States during the 1970s and 1980s, killing at least six people. Victor Gerena, an armed robber working for another Puerto Rican separatist group, who is believed to have taken the proceeds of a $7 million heist to Cuba with him. Charles Hill who in 1971 hijacked a civilian plane carrying 49 passengers and fled to Cuba. Hill is also wanted for the 1971 murder of New Mexico State Police officer Robert Rosenbloom. Frank Terpil, a former CIA officer and convicted arms trafficker who is wanted for providing more than 20 tons of plastic explosives to the late Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi. Others include William Lee Brent, William Potts and Ronald Labeet, all wanted in the U.S.

  • Current and former Spanish members of Basque Fatherland and Liberty (ETA), a Basque terrorist organization continue to reside in Cuba. While some of these terrorists are on the island as part of an accord between the Cuban and Spanish governments, others are hiding in Cuba, fugitives of Spanish justice. ETA terrorist, Jose Angel Urtiaga Martinez, has lived in Cuba since the 1980s and is wanted by Spanish Justice. In addition, there are about a dozen other ETA members living in Cuba.

  • In mid-2013, the Castro regime was caught smuggling weapons (aircraft, missiles, etc.) out of Cuba on a North Korean vessel in violation of UN sanctions. Cuba lied to the international community about the content of the vessel. The official UN Report on “Cuba-North Korea Illegal Weapons Trafficking,” published in March 2014, revealed “a comprehensive, planned strategy to conceal the existence and nature of the cargo.” The Report concluded, contrary to Cuba’s allegations, that “some, if not all, of the consignment was not expected to be returned to Cuba.”

  • Former Cuban intelligence official, Uberto Mario, has described how the Castro regime is training Venezuelan “Tupamaros,” pro-Maduro groups who violently attack Venezuelan students.

  • “Hezbollah in Cuba,” the Hamas-funded Turkish “charity” known as IHH continues to operate in Havana. IHH is a member of the “Union of Good,” an umbrella organization that financially supports Hamas.

  • Managed by Cubans and Venezuelans sympathetic to Cuba, Venezuela’s immigration system, “Misión Identidad,” facilitates the entry of Cuban agents into Venezuela. Cubans also control SIME (Servicio de Identificacion, Migracion y Extranjeria, Caracas) which facilitates the travel of drug organizations, Colombian guerrillas, and Islamist terrorists. Cuba also has on the island duplicate Venezuelan forms and stamps to issue passports and identifications to these groups.

  • Warranting special mention are the outstanding U.S. indictments against Cuban Air Force pilots Lorenzo Alberto Pérez-Pérez, Francisco Perez Perez and General Rubén Martínez Puente, the head of the Cuban Air Force, who in 1996 shot down two unarmed civilian American aircraft over international waters in the Florida Straits. That act of terrorism, ordered by Fidel and Raul Castro, killed four men, three of them American citizens. The Castro brothers personally accepted responsibility for the shot-down.

  • In 2013 “Prensa Islamica” published an article on Cuba-Iran growing relationship. The article explains that Cuba has shared with Iran its “vast knowledge on intelligence” and has discussed cooperation “on electromagnetic weapons capable of sabotaging enemy communications.”

  • In January 2019, Colombia’s President asked Cuba to extradite several leaders of Colombian terrorist group Ejército de Liberación Nacional (ELN). Yet Cuba refuses. Living in the island are Israel Ramírez Pineda aka Pablo Beltrán; Victor Orlando Cubides, aka Aureliano Carbonell; Manuel Gustavo Martínez; Consuelo Tapias; Tomás García; Isabel Torres; Juan de Dios Lizarazo Astroza, aka Alirio Sepúlveda; Luz Amanda Pallares, aka Silvana Guerrero; Vivian Henao; Nicolás Rodríguez Bautista, aka Gabino; and Oscar Serrano.

  • Other leaders of the Colombian terrorist group, Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia, FARC live in Cuba or use the island as safe heaven. They include Ivan Marquez, Jesús Santrich and Rodrigo Londoño Echeverri, aka Timochenko.

  • The electro-magnetic cyber-attacks against U.S. and Canadian diplomats in Havana that harmed a number of them, is still an unresolved issue.

In an attempt to obtain unilateral concession from the U.S., Gen. Raul Castro’s regime has toned down some of the violent anti-U.S. propaganda of older brother Fidel. Yet his commitments to and interrelationships with anti-American terrorist groups have not disappeared. They have taken a more sophisticated approach; many times, using proxies such as Venezuelan supporters. 

*   Cuban Studies Institute Staff Report.  Foreign intelligence services provided information for this report.

UPI, Aug. 29, 2019


‘New approach’ to Cuba must rely on realistic historical assessments

By Daniel I. Pedreira

Young Cubans gather on Nov 26, 2016, at Havana University to remember Castro. Photo: Alejandro Ernesto/EPA

Young Cubans gather on Nov 26, 2016, at Havana University to remember Castro. Photo: Alejandro Ernesto/EPA

Aug. 29 (UPI) — Fidel Castro may have died in 2016, but 60 years after he and his top lieutenants rolled into Havana on tanks, the dictatorship that he set up is far from gone.

His brother and successor, Raúl Castro, has all but faded from the spotlight. The appointment of Miguel Díaz-Canel as Cuba’s new leader in 2018 caused some speculation about a possible opening of Cuba’s political and economic system. Yet recent news of alleged sonic attacks against American and Canadian diplomats and continued repression of human rights and civil liberties reflect Havana’s reluctance for change.

President Donald Trump’s administration has become the 12th U.S. administration to try a new approach toward the Cuban government.

Cuba suddenly became newsworthy again on Dec. 17, 2014, when then-President Barack Obama announced “a new approach” toward the Cuban dictatorship. Much of this “new approach” was based on the premise that some Cubans “have seen us [the U.S.] as a former colonizer intent on controlling your future.”

Obama further alluded to this “colonizer” myth, adding that “we can never erase the history between us,” ending his address by stating that “today, America chooses to cut loose the shackles of the past so as to reach for a better future — for the Cuban people, for the American people, for our entire hemisphere and for the world.”

This premise presents an overly simplified view of Cuban history and of U.S.-Cuba relations that prevails in academia, government and the media. Examples abound of Cuban leaders exerting their nation’s sovereignty and agency in Cuba’s relations with the United States, thus debunking the “colonizer myth.”

For many, it is hard to imagine that 75 years ago, the United States and Cuba enjoyed excellent relations. Upon his appointment in late-1944, Guillermo Belt Ramírez (1905-1989) came to exemplify Cuban foreign policy toward the United States.

It would have been hard to imagine in December 1944, as Belt took his post as Cuban ambassador to the United States, that 40 U.S. embassy employees would suffer “from a range of concussion-like symptoms, including balance problems, memory lapses, difficulty concentrating, insomnia, headaches and nausea.”

University of Pennsylvania researchers have potentially uncovered evidence of brain injuries, but the causes remain unclear. Regardless of what those may be, it is virtually unimaginable that Belt and his American counterparts would have fathomed such a serious diplomatic crisis that imperiled foreign diplomats on Cuban soil.

The Cuban government’s continued repression of human rights and civil liberties was equally unfathomable to Belt and to Cubans of his generation. Belt, along with Drs. Guy Pérez-Cisneros and Ernesto Dihigo y López Trigo, helped draft the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which Cuba signed in 1948 and is still in effect.

The human rights situation in Cuba remains abysmal. The Cuban Commission of Human Rights and National Reconciliation (CCDHRN), an independent NGO based in Havana, reported 639 arbitrary detentions by Cuban authorities during the first three months of 2019 alone. PEN International issued a report and several statements on Decree 349, a Cuban law that restricts artistic expression that came into effect in December 2018, calling it “the most significant attempt by officials to regulate the cultural sector and control a rising generation of independent and globally connected artists.”

It is rewarding to see that, 75 years later, some of the international organizations and principles that Belt participated in drafting and developing on Cuba’s behalf are speaking up against the Castro dictatorship and on behalf of the Cuban people. The Organization of American States, created in 1948 by Belt and other regional diplomats, has demonstrated its support for the Cuban people through the actions and statements of its secretary general, Luis Almagro, and ambassadors like Carlos Trujillo from the United States.

Trying a new approach, the Trump administration activated Title III of the Cuban Liberty and Solidarity Act of 1996 (known as the Helms-Burton Law). This allows individuals whose property was confiscated by the Castro dictatorship to sue in U.S. federal courts anyone who benefits economically from the property in question. The Trump administration has also banned group educational and cultural trips known as “people-to-people” trips to Cuba. These actions represent manifestations of the same logic: Cutting Cuba’s much-needed cash flow will debilitate the Cuban dictatorship.

Obama was right about one thing: “Change is hard…and change is even harder when we carry the heavy weight of history on our shoulders.” Had Obama and the architects of his Cuba policy looked at the role of Cuban diplomats like Belt in developing bilateral relations during the 20th century, the founding myth of his administration’s policy, and the policy itself, may have demonstrated different results.

Five years after the United States re-established relations with Cuba, the lack of principled Cuban diplomats like Belt has led to a stronger policy from Trump’s administration.

Daniel I. Pedreira is the author of “An Instrument of Peace: The Full-Circled Life of Ambassador Guillermo Belt Ramírez.”