CubaBrief: Herald Editorial Board calls for Cuba to stay on U.S. terrorism list. Cuban MININT officials visit U.S. Port, Congressman raises security concerns

Port facility, Wilmington, North Carolina

The Miami Herald editorial board is right to point out that it is a bad idea to have representatives of the Cuban dictatorship touring Port facilities. It is worrying that members of the Castro regime’s feared Ministry of the Interior did tour the Port Facilities in Wilmington, North Carolina.

The Herald’s editorial board is wrong about the claim that “Cuba has fought, unsuccessfully, to get its name removed from the list of four rogue nations, which also includes North Korea, Iran and Syria.” The Castro regime successfully pressured the Obama Administration into removing Cuba from the list in 2015, in exchange for the promise of normalized relations. Regime behaviour did not improve following the delisting.

Also this is not the only country to have been taken off the list for political reasons, that did not achieve a change in conduct.

In October 2008, the Bush Administration took North Korea off the list of state sponsors of terrorism in the hopes that it would “salvage a fragile nuclear deal” by appeasing Pyongyang. It did not work. The Reagan Administration designated North Korea a terror sponsor in 1988 after it was implicated in the 1987 bombing of  a South Korean airliner, in which more than 100 died.  On November 20, 2017, President Trump returned North Korea to the list of state terror sponsors. This was done because Pyonngyang has continued to support international terrorism, and carried out assassinations on foreign soil.

An honest assessment of the Castro regime would also have kept it on the state terror sponsor list.

Terrorism is a core part of Castroism. Through terrorism, the Castro regime seized power in 1959. Castro’s July 26th Movement  carried out multiple bombings that terrorized and killed Cuban citizens throughout the 1950s. Several of them were planned by Raul Castro, who is regarded  by some as ‘the father’ of the modern crime of skyjacking. On November 1, 1958, a skyjacking he arranged resulted in the deaths of 17 civilians.

Terrorism is seen as a valid tactic by the Castro dictatorship to further its goals. Havana published the “Mini Manual for Revolutionaries” written by Brazilian urban terrorist leader Carlos Marighella.

It features a chapter on terrorism that declares: “Terrorism is a weapon the revolutionary can never renounce.” The Castro regime translated into many languages, and distributed copies worldwide.

On March 1, 1982 the Reagan Administration placed Cuba on the list of state sponsors of terrorism. This was less than three months after the US State Department confirmed that Havana was using a narcotics ring to funnel both arms and cash to the Colombian M19 terrorist group then battling to overthrow Colombia’s democracy. Despite being taken off the terror sponsor list in 2015, the Castro regime has continued to engage in narcotics trafficking in Venezuela, and continues to provide refuge to cop killers and terrorists convicted of homicide who fled the United States, Colombia, Spain, and other countries.

Mark P. Sullivan of the Congressional Research Service reported that in May 2020 Cuba was not certified as cooperating with U.S. antiterrorism efforts and briefly outlined some of the reasons cited for redesignating Cuba a terror sponsor on January 11, 2021.

“In May 2020, the Secretary of State (pursuant to Section 40A of the Arms Export Control Act) added Cuba to the annual list of countries certified as not cooperating fully with U.S. antiterrorism efforts, the first time since 2015. On January 11, 2021, the Secretary designated the Cuban government a state sponsor of international terrorism (the previous such designation was rescinded in 2015). He cited Cuba’s harboring of several U.S. fugitives since the 1970s and of 10 leaders of Colombia’s National Liberation Army (a U.S.-designated foreign terrorist organization)…”

The Obama administration had high hopes when there was a shift toward normalizing diplomatic relations with Cuba, but the policy had negative effects. They hoped to see political and economic reforms instituted by the regime, but instead, repression and human rights violations increased, as recognized by Obama’s own former Secretary of State John Kerry.

This is why it is deeply concerning that when security concerns were raised by Congressman David Rouzer, R-N.C by a visit of officials of the Cuban government to tour the Port of Wilmington in the last week of February 2023, a State Department official gave the following statement to the local media:

“We have communicated to Cuban officials that they cannot expect a substantially improved relationship with the United States without addressing human rights concerns. We have repeatedly called on the Cuban government, publicly and in private, to immediately and unconditionally release all political prisoners.”

This does not address security concerns, nor the regime’s history of engaging in, and sponsoring terrorism, or recent high level visits with Russian, Chinese, and Iranian officials. Does this mean that if the Castro regime releases all political prisoners then Havana will have greater access to the United States, and port security?

On October 28, 2022 when a boat carrying refugees was ambushed and sunk north of Bahia Honda by a Cuban coast guard cutter, part of the Ministry of the Interior, the U.S. Embassy in Havana echoed the regime talking point that this massacre was an “accident” and reinforced the dictatorship’s narrative. Could this be the reason why? Having MININT officials connected to a recent massacre would be bad form to “normalize” engaging with them as equivalents to the U.S. Coastguard while visiting sensitive U.S. facilities?

Miami Herald, March 9, 2022

We don’t like the company Cuba keeps, so it should definitely stay on U.S. terrorism list | Opinion

By the Miami Herald Editorial Board March 09, 2023 3:22 PM

For years, Cuba’s presence on the U.S. list of state sponsors of terror has churned debate. Cuba has fought, unsuccessfully, to get its name removed from the list of four rogue nations, which also includes North Korea, Iran and Syria.

In a letter to President Biden, also signed by Republican U.S. Reps. Maria Elvira Salazar and Carlos Gimenez of Miami, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio wrote, “Not only is Cuba still a U.S.-designated State Sponsor of Terrorism, along with North Korea, Iran, and Syria, but Cuba remains a chief counterintelligence threat.”

In a sharply worded “what were you thinking?!” letter, Rubio castigated the Biden administration’s invitation to a Cuban delegation to a tour a Coast Guard station in Washington, D.C. That part of the visit was canceled, as it should have been. Cuba spies on us. Why risk giving it the information it wants with a welcoming smile and a handshake?

https://www.miamiherald.com/opinion/editorials/article272832445.html

WECT News 6, March 8, 2023

Cuban government officials visit Wilmington Port, Congressman Rouzer expressing concerns about visit

Cuban government officials visited the Wilmington Port on Sunday, Feb. 26 to meet with U.S. Coast Guard officials.

By Mara McJilton

Published: Mar. 8, 2023 at 3:04 PM EST

WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) – Cuban government officials visited the Wilmington Port on Sunday, Feb. 26 to meet with U.S. Coast Guard officials. Cuba’s Ministry of Interior, Ministry of Transportation and Ministry of Foreign Relations toured the port as part of the International Port Security Program.

“The International Port Security Program seeks to reduce risk to U.S. maritime interests, including U.S. ports and ships, and to facilitate secure maritime trade globally. Reciprocal visits like this occur with many of our international partners around the world,” a spokesperson for the U.S. Department of State said. “Through reciprocal port visits, including the discussion and sharing of port security best practices, both U.S. port security and the security of the global maritime transport system are enhanced.”

Laura Blair, Vice President for Administration and External Affairs for the North Carolina State Ports Authority said this visit was requested and coordinated by the USCG Sector North Carolina. Blair added that this was not an Authority-initiated or sponsored event, the Port only provided the access and support as requested by the USCG.

“The Cuban delegation is meeting with USCG counterparts and joining supervised tours of port facilities in North Carolina. This coordination is not new, nor does it represent a change in U.S. policy. The U.S. Coast Guard and Cuban Border Guard have had a collaborative relationship for decades that focuses first and foremost on maritime safety. The most recent visit of a Cuban delegation as part of the International Port Security Program took place in 2019,” a spokesperson for the U.S. Department of State said. “We have communicated to Cuban officials that they cannot expect a substantially improved relationship with the United States without addressing human rights concerns. We have repeatedly called on the Cuban government, publicly and in private, to immediately and unconditionally release all political prisoners.”

Congressman David Rouzer spoke on the House floor about his concerns surrounding the visit, saying this was a national security risk.

“Mr. Speaker, I found out on Friday of this past week that Cuba’s Border Guard and Ministry of Foreign Affairs had been hosted in the North Carolina congressional district that I am honored to represent. The Wilmington port facilities visit was planned and authorized by the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of State.

“As one of our nation’s oldest adversaries and a state sponsor of terrorism, Cuba’s communist government is no friend of the United States or anyone else who believes in freedom. Cuba has a history of being a strategic Western asset to our greatest adversaries, including China, Russia, and Iran. And they regularly cooperate with narcotics traffickers bringing cocaine, fentanyl, and other deadly drugs to our country.

“Now I’m told this trip, as well as others in the past, have been arranged as part of a reciprocal relationship to turn back Cubans fleeing to the United States. So, we apparently have this arrangement where we view their ports and security protocols, and they view ours.

“Now, there is no reason any nation with a State Sponsor of Terrorism designation should be hosted by the United States, let alone be allowed to analyze sensitive coastal and maritime security protocols. Ironically, the decision to designate Cuba as a State Sponsor of Terrorism and the decision to authorize this trip were made by the same agencies. This action flies in the face of the purpose of both the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of State and makes a mockery of American strength against our adversaries.

“The shores of North Carolina’s Seventh Congressional District are used and enjoyed by its residents and countless tourists from across the country. It is our responsibility to ensure the security of our maritime borders, and our Coast Guard often serves as the first line of defense against these threats.

“This visit, Mr. Speaker, was a clear national security risk. I don’t know how one could view it otherwise. Mr. Speaker, bottom line is this visit should have never happened and the American people deserve to know what steps were taken to protect our national security interests. I yield back.”

WECT has reached out to the USCG Sector North Carolina for more specific details about the visit.

Copyright 2023 WECT.

https://www.wect.com/2023/03/08/cuban-government-officials-visit-wilmington-port-congressman-rouzer-expressing-concerns-about-visit/

Wilmington Biz, March 8, 2023

Maritime

Rouzer Raises Red Flags About Port Tour With Cuban Officials

By Johanna F. Stil

U.S. Coast Guard officials gave Cuban government affiliates a tour of the Port of Wilmington last week. (File photo)

Officials with the Cuban government toured the Port of Wilmington last week, and Congressman David Rouzer, R-N.C., has raised national security concerns about the apparently sanctioned visit. 

Cuba was first designated as a State Sponsor of Terrorism in 1982 due to its track record of supporting guerrilla groups and terrorists, according to the U.S. Bureau of Counterterrorism. Though the designation was rescinded in 2015, it was reinstated in 2021 “for repeatedly providing support for acts of international terrorism in granting safe harbor to terrorists,” the State Department shared at the time. 

Laura Blair, a spokesperson for the N.C. State Ports Authority, said the event was not initiated or sponsored by the authority. 

“[U.S. Coast Guard] Sector North Carolina requested and coordinated the delegation visit,” Blair wrote in an email Wednesday. “The Ports provided the access and support as requested by Sector North Carolina.” 

In a statement Wednesday, a spokesperson for the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) told the Business Journal that the military branch conducts assessments of foreign ports “and provides reciprocity of access” to advance the Department of Homeland Security’s “national security and antiterrorism mission,” as required by law. 

“USCG officials visited Cuba and conducted a cyclical port security assessment in January, contingent on this reciprocity, in the same manner as visits that took place in 2019,” the spokesperson said. “The U.S. Coast Guard performs these assessments to assess the effectiveness of antiterrorism measures maintained at foreign ports.”

During Tuesday’s Morning Hour Debate in the U.S. House of Representatives, a practice that allows representatives to speak for a limited time on non-legislative issues, Rouzer aired his concerns about the tour. 

Rouzer said he was informed of the visit on Friday after it had already occurred. The visit was “planned and authorized” by the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of State, Rouzer said. 

“As one of our nation’s oldest adversaries and a state sponsor of terrorism, Cuba’s communist government is no friend of the United States or anyone else who believes in freedom,” he said. “Cuba has a history of being a strategic Western asset to our greatest adversaries, including China, Russia, and Iran. And they regularly cooperate with narcotics traffickers bringing cocaine, fentanyl, and other deadly drugs to our country.”

In a Feb. 26 letter to the Secretary of Homeland Security, the chairmen of the Homeland Security Committee and the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Reps. Mark Green and Mike McCaul, and other representatives expressed serious concern about the then-upcoming visit. The representatives wrote the visit would entail a Cuban delegation of officials from the country’s Border Guard and Ministry of Foreign Affairs to visit the U.S. Coast Guard headquarters in Washington, D.C. and the Port of Wilmington. 

According to the letter, the visit was organized under the U.S. Coast Guard’s International Port Security Program. 

“Now I’m told this trip, as well as others in the past, have been arranged as part of a reciprocal relationship to turn back Cubans fleeing to the United States. So, we apparently have this arrangement where we view their ports and security protocols, and they view ours,” Rouzer said on the House floor Tuesday. “Now, there is no reason any nation with a State Sponsor of Terrorism designation should be hosted by the United States, let alone be allowed to analyze sensitive coastal and maritime security protocols. Ironically, the decision to designate Cuba as a State Sponsor of Terrorism and the decision to authorize this trip were made by the same agencies. This action flies in the face of the purpose of both the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of State and makes a mockery of American strength against our adversaries.”

The Department of Homeland Security and the Department of State did not return a request to comment. However, a State Department spokesperson told the National Review the Cuban delegation’s visit was “not new.” 

“The U.S. Coast Guard and Cuban Border Guard have had a collaborative relationship for decades that focuses first and foremost on maritime safety,” the spokesperson told the outlet. “The most recent visit of a Cuban delegation as part of the International Port Security Program took place in 2019.”

Rouzer concluded his remarks by stating it is imperative to maintain the domestic security of maritime borders. “Mr. Speaker, bottom line is this visit should have never happened and the American people deserve to know what steps were taken to protect our national security interests,” he said. 

https://www.wilmingtonbiz.com/maritime/2023/03/08/rouzer_raises_red_flags_about_port_tour_with_cuban_officials/24205

March 07, 2023 | Judicial Watch

DHS Invites Communist State Sponsor of Terrorism to Tour U.S. Maritime Security Facilities

As if the Mexican border crisis were not sufficiently compromising national security, the Biden administration invited officials from a communist country that appears on the government’s list of state terrorism sponsors to tour sensitive U.S. maritime security facilities. The bizarre secret jaunt was scheduled last week to grant a delegation from Cuba’s Border Guard and Ministry of Foreign Affairs access to the nation’s Coast Guard Headquarters in Washington D.C. as well as port facilities in Wilmington, North Carolina. Cuba appears on the State Department list of terrorist nations along with Syria, Iran, and North Korea. Cuba has a long history of providing advice, safe haven, communications, training, and financial support to guerrilla groups and individual terrorists, according to the State Department. Furthermore, Cuba maintains close and collaborative ties with designated state sponsors of terror such as Iran and North Korea and the communist island harbors multiple fugitives who committed or supported acts of terrorism in the United States.

It makes no sense for any administration, Democrat or Republican, to grant an adversary with a history like Cuba’s access to essential Homeland Security facilities, especially at a time when the country is getting slammed with unknown foreigners entering illegally in droves. Apparently, the excursion was part of the International Port Security Program, which seeks to reduce risk to U.S. maritime interests, including American ports and ships, and facilitate secure maritime trade globally in partnership with global maritime trading partners. “Through international port visits, the discussion and sharing of port security best practices and the development of mutual interests in securing ships coming to the United States enhance both U.S. port security and the security of the global maritime transportation system,” according to the U.S. Coast Guard’s description of the program.

However, none of that should apply to Cuba, which also harbors dozens of fugitives and terrorists from American justice. Among them is Joanne Chesimard, who appears on the FBI’s most wanted terrorist list and is also known by her Black Panther name of Assata Shakur. Chesimard was sentenced to life in prison after being convicted by a jury of the 1979 murder of a New Jersey State Trooper. With the help of fellow cult members, she escaped from jail and fled to Cuba. Chesimard is among the targets of bipartisan legislation introduced last year to force Cuba’s communist government to extradite more than 70 fugitives receiving safe haven on the island. “It is unacceptable that the Cuban regime continues to harbor criminals responsible for committing heinous acts in the United States, including terrorist bombings, murdering American police officers, hijacking planes, and trafficking arms,” said Democrat Bob Menedez, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, when the bill was introduced. The veteran lawmaker added that “the families of the victims of these fugitives, including many in my home state of New Jersey, have spent decades unable to find closure and see justice done as a direct result of the Cuban regime’s actions.”

Thanks to his Republican Senate colleague, Marco Rubio of Florida, the recent Coast Guard tour was cut short and the Cuban delegation only visited port facilities in North Carolina. In a letter to the president Rubio demanded that the visit be canceled and that Biden provide an explanation for sharing the nation’s security protocols with a foreign adversary. The senator reminds the commander-in-chief that Cuba is a state sponsor of terrorism for its broken commitments to cooperate with U.S. counter-terrorism efforts and its continued support of the Maduro narco-regime in Venezuela, Revolutionary Armed Forces of Cuba (FARC) and the National Liberation Army (ELN) in Colombia. “Both of these foreign terrorist organizations carry out attacks against civilians and engage in narcotics trafficking that bring cocaine, fentanyl and other drugs to our shores,” Rubio writes. “It is unconscionable that you would allow security operatives from Cuba – a State Sponsor of Terrorism that actively cooperates with narcotics traffickers, China, Russia, and Iran – the opportunity to access sensitive national security installations and maritime security protocols.”

https://www.judicialwatch.org/dhs-invites-communist-state-sponsor/