CubaBrief: State terror sponsor Cuba sent troops to assist war criminal Mengistu commit genocide in Ethiopia, and carried out terrorism against civilians, slanders Israel

“The pot calling the kettle black” is found first in print in Miguel Cervantes’s Don Quijote in 1620 as “Dijo el sartén a la caldera, Quítate allá ojinegra.”  This idiom came to mind immediately upon reading Cuban president Miguel Diaz-Canel (X or Tweet ) on December 27, 2023 in which Raul Castro’s hand picked president libeled Israel.

“The genocide committed by the terrorist state of Israel in Gaza is a humiliation for all humanity. How long will there be impunity, how long will there be a free way to murder? #Cuba, which will never be among the indifferent, raises its voice for Palestine again and again.”

This is a textbook example of projection.

For the sake of brevity will highlight one example of Fidel and Raul Castro assisting in a genocide that is well documented in which they are directly implicated.

The Castro brothers in the late 1970s and early 1980s in Ethiopia, sent thousands of Cuban troops who assisted war criminal Mengistu Haile Mariam carry out a genocide that claimed over a million Ethiopian lives. Fidel and Raul Castro both received Mengistu, who was known as the  “Butcher of Addis,” in Havana in 1975, and visited Mengistu in Addis Ababa in 1978.  Human Rights Watch in their September 1991 report, “EVIL DAYS: 30 YEARS OF WAR AND FAMINE IN ETHIOPIA” reported on the role played by Cuban troops.

From late 1979 onwards the population of southeast Ethiopia was affected by the counter-insurgency strategy of the Ethiopian government which was implemented from December 1979.  Starting in December 1979, the government launched a second military offensive. Soviet advisors and Cuban troops participated in taking actions specifically directed against the population’s means of survival, “including poisoning and bombing water holes and machine gunning herds of cattle.”

Fidel Castro guest of Mengistu at a military parade in Addis Ababa celebrating the 4th anniversary of the overthrow of the Ethiopian monarchy on September 15, 1978.

The U.S. State Department has Cuba on its list of state terror sponsors, and there is over 60 years of documentation that under the Castro regime, Cuba has been, and continues to be a terrorist state that has murdered U.S. citizens.

“On a sunny afternoon 27 years ago — Feb 24, 1996 — four human-rights activists searching for rafters on the Florida Straits were murdered by Cuban warplanes. Madeleine Albright, then secretary of state, presented irrefutable evidence to the international community of Cuba’s responsibility for this terrorist act.”

Havana trained terrorists that carried out bombing campaigns in New York City in the 1970s that killed Americans, and the regime has relations with both Hamas and Hezbollah.

Three U.S. citizens and a U.S. resident murdered in international airspace by agents of the Castro regime.

The Cuban dictatorship has spent decades slandering Israel. Fidel Castro personally equated the Jewish state with Nazi Germany, and the communist regime has promoted antisemitic tropes, and discriminated against Cuban Jews.

What of the libels against Israel?

Numbers do not lie, but the communist regime in Havana does.

 In 1933 there were 9.5 million Jewish people living in Europe. Following the Nazi holocaust, the Jewish population in Europe in 1950 was reduced to 3.5 million. The world Jewish population in 1939 was 16,728,000, and in 1945 it had shrunk to 11,000,000.

Palestinians and the Castro dictatorship for decades have accused, and continue to accuse, Israel of “ethnic cleansing” and “genocide”.

In 1948 there were 1.4 million Palestinians living in what is today, Israel, Gaza, and the West Bank. Today there are 7 million Palestinians living there, and 7.05 million living in the diaspora.

The Palestinian population under 75 years of Israeli “occupation” has grown five fold, and the total world population has grown. This is the antithesis of what happened to Jewish people during the Nazi regime both in Europe, and worldwide.

Since the 1960s Cuba’s communist dictatorship has trained terrorists to attack Israel. In 1973 the Castro regime sent 3,000 Cuban troops to Syria, and invaded Israel on October 6, 1973.

It is not surprising that hours after Hamas terrorists entered Israel on October 7th killed 1,200 Israelis, wounded over 3,360, launched over 6,300 rockets, murdered, raped, and kidnapped civilians; Havana blamed the victims.

In a formal statement released that same day, the Cuban Foreign Ministry blamed Israel and its “accomplice,” the U.S., for the violence. In so doing, it continues to spread a false narrative that originates in Soviet-era anti-Israel propaganda.”

The Castro regime’s libels against Israel stretch back over decades, and demonstrate the Cuban dictatorship’s hostility against the only democracy in the Middle East.

Real Clear Defense, December 22, 2023

Cuba and Iran Are Still State Sponsors of Terrorism

By Joseph M. Humire & John Suarez

December 22, 2023

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, right, speaks during a joint news briefing with his Cuban counterpart Miguel Diaz-Canel after their meeting at the Saadabad Palace in Tehran, Iran, Monday, Dec. 4, 2023. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)

After the October 7 terrorist attack on Israel, the Cuban Foreign Ministry issued a statement blaming the violence on the “impunity of Israel” and calling the Jewish state an occupying power. Missing was any condemnation of the Hamas terrorists. Perhaps, that’s because Havana has been providing intelligence to Hamas for decades and holding high level meetings with them, and their main sponsor, the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Cuba, of course, is on the list of State Sponsors of Terrorism (SST). But not everyone wants to keep that designation intact.

A number of Latin American politicians are calling on the Biden administration to remove Cuba from the list. And that has become a real possibility now that Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., no longer chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. A fierce critic of the Cuban regime, Menendez resigned the post following his Sept. 22 indictment on corruption charges. His replacement, Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., does not share Menendez’ antipathy toward the Cuban regime. Neither does Rep. Jim McGovern, who has called on Biden to remove Cuba from the SST list earlier this year.  

The list of State Sponsors of Terrorism is a useful foreign policy tool for pressuring rogue regimes. It’s important to keep Cuba on the list. Let’s review how Cuba got there and why it should remain.

Cuba was initially designated as a state sponsor of terror on March 1, 1982, after the State Department confirmed Havana was using a narcotics ring to funnel arms and cash to the Colombian terrorist group M-19. Three years later, M-19 members stormed Colombia’s Palace of Justice, killing 11 of the Colombian Supreme Court’s 25 justices in one of the worst terrorist acts in the country’s history. (Among those asking Biden to drop Cuba from the list, is Colombian President Gustavo Petro, a former member of the M-19 terrorist group himself.)

In 2015, with Sen. Cardin serving as ranking minority member of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations , President Obama removed Cuba from the list. But Havana’s behavior did not improve:

For these reasons and more, the Trump administration placed Cuba back on the state sponsor of terrorism list in 2021. This pleased our democratic partners in the hemisphere who understand that Cuba has evolved from simply supporting Latin American terrorist networks to helping international terrorism, particularly from the Middle East.

Iran, the largest state sponsor of terrorism, has developed a close relationship with the regime in Cuba. When Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi visited Havana earlier this year, Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel observed, “This visit reinforced our conviction that we have in Iran a friendly nation in the Middle East, with which to confide… and talk about the most complex global issues.”

Following the Oct. 7 terrorist attack, Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei welcomed Diaz-Canel to Tehran, stating that their strategic alliance “can take a common and effective position on important international issues such as the Palestinian issue.”

Iran has been building an asymmetric presence in Latin America and the Caribbean for several decades and counts on Cuba to strengthen its regional network. More than 20 years ago, Cuban dictator Fidel Castro visited Tehran and expressed the hope that “Iran and Cuba, in cooperation with each other, can bring America to its knees.”

Indeed, the Castro brothers have supported Middle Eastern terrorist groups since 1966, when they hosted the leaders of the Palestinian Liberation Organization. PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat subsequently visited Havana eight times. In the 1970s, it was common for Cuba’s Intelligence Directorate to send agents to PLO camps in Lebanon and vice versa. Between 1976 and 1982, the CIA estimated that 300 Palestinians were training in Cuban military camps.

Today, Cuba’s presence remains strong in Lebanon, and the communist dictatorship has formalized its relationship with US-designated terrorist groups, Hamas, and Hezbollah. In July 2021, Hezbollah’s head of international relations, Ammar Al-Moussawi, visited the Cuban embassy in Beirut to show solidarity during the height of anti-regime protests spreading throughout the island. Hezbollah and Cuba have both helped Venezuela’s Maduro regime and Syria’s Bashar al-Assad remain entrenched in power.

Removing Cuba’s designation as a terrorist sponsor would have multiple negative effects on U.S. national security. Chief among them is it would provide legitimacy to the longest-running dictatorship in the Western Hemisphere at a time when authoritarianism is on the rise in Latin America.

The Biden administration’s National Security Strategy, published last October, states that “the most pressing strategic challenge facing our vision is from powers that layer authoritarian governance with a revisionist foreign policy.”

You don’t fight against authoritarianism by rewarding an authoritarian regime. This is what happened in 2015, creating a moral hazard for US-Cuba policy that established perverse incentives for the Cuban regime, instead of penalties for malign activities.

Counterterrorism is not a partisan issue. Maintaining pressure on the regimes in Havana, and Tehran, and enforcing sanctions on Hezbollah and Hamas are good policy decisions. Keeping Cuba on the U.S. state sponsor of terrorism list reflects the long track record of bad behavior of the Cuban regime. Turning a blind eye to this from 2015 to 2021 was bad policy, and it put Americans at risk. The U.S. Congress should ensure that the Biden administration does not make this mistake.

Joseph M. Humire is the executive director of the Center for a Secure Free Society and a visiting fellow in the Douglas and Sarah Allison Center for Foreign Policy at The Heritage Foundation.

John Suarez is the executive director of the Center for a Free Cuba and a human rights activist.

The Hill, October 25, 2023

Cuba’s dictatorship has a serious problem with Jews

by John Suarez

On Oct. 7 Hamas terrorists killed 1,200 Israelis, wounding over 3,360, and launching over 6,300 rockets. Hamas raiders entered Israel, murdering, raping, and kidnapping civilians.

In a formal statement released that same day, the Cuban Foreign Ministry blamed Israel and its “accomplice,” the U.S., for the violence. In so doing, it continues to spread a false narrative that originates in Soviet-era anti-Israel propaganda.

Cuban officials have been meeting over the last year with high-ranking officials from Iran and Hamas. Iran’s Foreign minister Hossein Amirabdollahian visited Cuba and met with Cuban president Miguel Diaz-Canel on Feb. 5 “for talks on issues of mutual interest and international topics,” according to a statement from the Islamic Republic’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

On Feb. 25, Middle East Monitor reported that a Hamas delegation publicly visited the Cuban Ambassador in Lebanon. In that meeting, Ambassador Jorge Leon Cruz recognized “the legitimate right of the Palestinians to defend their land….The Palestinians are fighting for a just cause.”

On June 15, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi publicly met with his Cuban counterpart, Miguel Diaz-Canel, in Havana.

In short, both the terrorist group Hamas and its chief patron, Iran, have close relations with Cuba’s communist regime. The Cuban dictatorship aids terrorists in the Middle East, allows Hezbollah to maintain a base in Cuba, and provides intelligence to Hamas

The Cuban dictatorship also has a history of domestic antisemitism. Cuban officials in 2019 barred Jewish children from wearing kippahs in school. Fidel Castro in 1994 prohibited the importation of kosher meat into Cuba, despite allowing Halal food, which complies with Islamic dietary laws. Castro supported the 1975 UN resolution equating Zionism with racism and opposed its repeal in 1991.  

From 1959 through 1973, Havana maintained diplomatic relations with Israel while supporting terrorism against Israelis. Castro hailed the establishment of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) in 1965 and established ties with the Palestinian Fatah in Algiers and Damascus. Castro introduced PLO members at the Tri-Continental Conference in Havana in January 1966. This conference backed revolutionary and terrorist organizations across Europe, the Americas, and Asia with the objective of changing the world order in an authoritarian direction.

The Soviet Union assisted the Arab states in the run-up to the Six Days War in 1967. In the aftermath of their defeat, the Soviets initiated an active-measures campaign that proved effective in creating a false narrative harmful to Israel and the U.S. Eli Cohen and Elizabeth Boyd explained one part of this campaign in a must-read 2019 paper, titled “The KGB and anti-Israel propaganda operations.”

Operation SIG was a KGB active measure designed to sow worldwide disapproval for the U.S. and Israel. SIG is the Russian acronym for Sionistskiye Gosudarstva, or “Jewish (or Zionist) Government.” This involved Soviet propaganda and military support on behalf of terrorist groups declaring Israel their enemy. This included increasing anti-Israel sentiment by disseminating anti-Zionist propaganda and using anti-Semitic tropes from Western culture.

This narrative is the one that the dictatorship in Havana continues to repeat right up to the present day.

Fidel Castro, for example, compared Israel to Nazi Germany on October 15, 1979. “From the bottom of our heart, we repudiated the merciless persecution and genocide that the Nazis once visited on the Jews,” he said. “But there is nothing in recent history that parallels it more than the dispossession, persecution and genocide that imperialism and Zionism are currently practicing against the Palestinian people.”

In 2014, Castro called Israeli efforts to defend themselves from Hamas terrorism “a repugnant new form of fascism,” and a “macabre genocide against the Palestinian people.” 

The Cuban dictatorship’s hostility to Israel was not limited to rhetoric and its assistance to terrorists. Cuba also involved itself in direct military action.

Castro severed diplomatic ties with Israel on September 10, 1973, just days before the Yom Kippur War began. During that war, 3,000 Cuban soldiers participated in the attack on Israel, alongside forces from Egypt and Syria, and expeditionary forces from Saudi Arabia, Algeria, Jordan, Iraq, Libya, Kuwait, Tunisia, Morocco, and North Korea.

The publication Noticias de Israel provided an in-depth description of the role played by Cuba in this war. Havana conducted a secret operation to send military support to Syria. A tank brigade, helicopter pilots, communications agents, and intelligence and counterintelligence officers took part. The brigade was under General Leopoldo Cintra Frías’s command. 

Soldiers left Cuba bound for Syria, dressed in civilian clothes, with forged passports identifying them as university students. Soviet military equipment, including T-62 tanks and SAM rocket artillery, were provided to them. In all, 3,000 Cubans took part in the war. Cuban tank crews fought alongside Syrian troops in their war of aggression.

According to Foreign Report, 180 Cubans were killed and 250 were injured in that conflict. The surprise factor resulted in significant losses for Israel, both in lives and military equipment. Civilian areas were also hit, with 2,800 Israelis killed and 8,800 wounded. 

In short, the Castro regime has spent decades seeking the destruction of Israel, in both its rhetoric and its actions. Cuban officials have also discriminated against Cuban Jews, and spread anti-semitic tropes.

Havana has had and continues to have a problem with Jewish people.

John Suarez is executive director of the Center for a Free Cuba, and a human rights activist.