CubaBrief: Despite Havana’s continued support for terrorism, the UK-based The Independent reports that “the US is expected to ease ESTA restrictions for Cuba visitors.”

According to the Department of Homeland Security Visa Waiver Program travelers are required to apply for and receive an approved travel authorization via the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA). Due to Cuba being a state sponsor of terror the United States has banned Cuba visitors to apply via ESTA because of security concerns.

Simon Calder, the travel correspondent for the The Independent reported on November 9, 2022 that this ban will be eased by the United States, and concluded, “with the US mid-term elections out of the way, it is thought President Biden may remove Cuba from the list.”

This would be a politically motivated decision contrary to U.S. national security interests. The military dictatorship in Cuba has maintained close relations with countries that are directly involved in terrorism such as Syria, Iran, and North Korea, and with terrorist groups. Havana has also been shown to harbor terrorists from different countries, including the United States, Spain, and Colombia. At least one Middle-Eastern terrorist group (Hezbollah) has a base of operations in Cuba to project itself in South America.

From the State Department on January 11, 2021:

“… Cuba has refused Colombia’s requests to extradite ten ELN leaders living in Havana after the group claimed responsibility for the January 2019 bombing of a Bogota police academy that killed 22 people and injured more than 87 others.”

… “The Cuban intelligence and security apparatus has infiltrated Venezuela’s security and military forces, assisting Nicholas Maduro to maintain his stranglehold over his people while allowing terrorist organizations to operate. The Cuban government’s support for FARC dissidents and the ELN continues beyond Cuba’s borders as well, and the regime’s support of Maduro has created a permissive environment for international terrorists to live and thrive within Venezuela.”

More information on Cuba’s history of engaging and supporting terrorism available here.

The Independent, November 9, 2022

US expected to ease ESTA ban for Cuba visitors

Exclusive: Customs & Border Protection expected to ease backdated sanctions

Simon Calder

Travel Correspondent

President Trump’s final act against Cuba was to place the island on Washington’s list of “state sponsors of terrorism” (SST). His successor, Joe Biden, has left the designation in place.

As a result, says the US State Department, British visitors to America who have visited Cuba since 1 March 2011 cannot use the swift, cheap and easy ESTA system. Instead they must spend $160 (£141) on a full visa – and attend an interview at the US Embassy in London or the Consulate-General in Belfast, for which appointments are hard to obtain.

Confusion has reigned, with several leading travel firms insisting the backdated sanctions apply only from the “designation date” of 12 January 2021. Many travellers with evidence of a visit to Cuba in their passport before that date have reported that they have been allowed to enter the US without a problem.

But the State Department insists: “Any visit to an SST on or after March 1, 2011, even if the country was designated yesterday, renders the applicant ineligible for Esta.”

As a result, some passengers have been turned away from departure airports because they are regarded by the airlines as inadmissible to the US.

Now, though, The Independent understands that US Customs & Border Protection (CBP) is likely to announce this month – possibly within a matter of days – that visits in the decade before 2021 will no longer disqualify a traveller from using the Esta scheme.

US government sources have said that discussions in Washington are at an advanced stage and that CBP is pressing for the 12 January 2021 date to be used. While negotiations continue, front-line staff are taking “a relaxed approach” to British visitors who were in Cuba before 2021.

The former president’s aim was to cause maximum damage to the Communist republic by deterring visitors. But it is also having an impact on US tourism, with some visitors choosing to visit Cuba in preference to America.

The Caribbean’s largest island is classed alongside Iran, North Korea and Syria as a state sponsor of terrorism. With the US mid-term elections out of the way, it is thought President Biden may remove Cuba from the list.

From the archives

Israel Defense, February 29, 2016

Clinton E-Mails: Hezbollah Set Up Base in Cuba – to Avenge the Death of Imad Mughniyeh

Hillary Clinton’s E-mail documents revealed that Hezbollah previously established an operational base in Cuba to support operations in South America. According to the report, the information came from the Israeli Mossad

Ami Rojkes Dombe | 29/02/2016

The publication of US presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s E-mails revealed that Hezbollah had set up and operated a base in Cuba. These are E-mail correspondence made from Clinton’s private computer and contained classified information. (Side note: Do not worry; nothing to do with Israel was authorized to publish.)

According to jewishpress website, several years before Obama’s tenure, Israeli Mossad informed the Americans of that base, that is set to serve as a base for terrorist activities in Latin America. (Original document can reach the State Department website.)

It was revealed that Mossad, the Israeli intelligence service, was concerned that Hezbollah wanted to carry out attacks against Israeli targets in Latin America and the Caribbean. “Also, (Hezbollah) was instructed (it’s pretty obvious by who) to start forming a targets list within the United States and Britain, including diplomatic missions, major banks, and businesses”, so stated said document.

According to the report, Nasrallah himself conducted the negotiations with the Cuban security service – Dirección General de Inteligencia Cuba, or DGI for short. He promised Cuba that Hezbollah will remain low profile and will not leave any traces of any operation conducted. There is no evidence that the DGI has assisted Hezbollah in any way.

Nasrallah believed that a terror attack in South America in honor of Mughniyeh would be a symbolic act, because of Mughniyeh’s major role in the bombing of Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires in 1992. In this context, the operational base in Cuba was to provide support for Hezbollah cells in Paraguay, Brazil and Venezuela.

By now, 46,000 documents from Clinton’s correspondence were released, out of 56,000 in total. For more interesting documents in the State Department database: