Cuba remains a terrorist threat the US should not placate | OpEd in Sun Sentinel

Cuba is a state sponsor of terrorism, but there is a false and steady drumbeat claiming otherwise, Terrorism is part of the Castro dictatorship’s DNA.

Sun Sentinel. October 10, 2023

Cuba remains a threat we cannot placate | Opinion

By John Suarez |

PUBLISHED: October 10, 2023

In his Viewpoint essay of Oct. 4, Manuel Gomez writes that the relation between Cuba and the United States is not irrelevant despite it not making headlines recently. He is right about that — but wrong about nearly everything else. The thawing of relations advocated by Gomez and others like him will only embolden a despotic regime that, despite Gomez’s insistence, remains a sponsor of terroristic acts at home and abroad

Venezuelan and Nicaraguan refugees are aware of Havana’s role in bolstering dictatorships in both countries, as well as how the Cuban military and intelligence service torture Venezuelans and Nicaraguans.

President Barack Obama’s Cuba policy increased Cuban suffering, led to increased violence against dissidents, the murder of dissident leaders Oswaldo Payá and Harold Cepero on July 22, 2012, the machete attack against dissident Sirley Avila Leon on May 24, 2015 and legitimized General Raul Castro’s dictatorship, but got nothing in return.

In a Sept. 9, 2020 interview, Obama’s Secretary of State John Kerry stated, “It’s fair to say that everybody shares a little bit of disappointment about the direction that the government in Cuba chose to go” after normalizing US-Cuba relations. Kerry added, “Cuba seemed to harden down after the initial steps were taken.”

Left out of Secretary Kerry’s analysis is that during the Obama thaw migration was weaponized by Havana and over 120,000 Cubans entered the United States. The claim that uncontrolled Cuban migration is caused by sanctions on the dictatorship ignores six decades of history.

During the Carter and Clinton administrations, migration was weaponized by Havana to leverage concessions. During the 1980 Mariel Boatlift, Fidel Castro personally chose rapists, murderers and mental patients to seed the exodus, smearing the Cuban diaspora and causing a deadly crime wave in the United States.

Cuba poses a threat to the US and the wider region

On May 17, 2012, the U.S. House Committee on Foreign Affairs held a hearing on “Cuba’s Global Network of Terrorism, Intelligence, and Warfare.” Christopher Simmons, retired from the Defense Intelligence Agency with over 23 years of experience as a counterintelligence officer, presented the following analysis of Cuba.

“In many respects, Cuba can be accurately characterized as a violent criminal organization masquerading as a government. The island’s five intelligence services exist not to protect the nation, but to ensure the survival of the regime. … Transitioning to the issue of terrorism, Havana takes a three-tier approach to its involvement in terrorism: Regime-directed, regime-supported, and finally, alliances with state sponsors. For regime-directed activities, we’re looking at specifically bona fide acts of terrorism, Cuban Intelligence Service targeting of the U.S. war on terrorism, and ‘Active Measures.’ ”

Cuba was first added to the list of state sponsors of terrorism on March 1, 1982. The U.S. State Department had confirmed Havana was using a narcotics ring to funnel both arms and cash to the Colombian M19 terrorist group, which was fighting to destabilize Colombia’s democracy.

Obama’s decision to remove Cuba from this list was a political decision, responding to Havana’s conditions for normalization.

Cuba was returned to the list on Jan. 11, 2021 for having “refused Colombia’s requests to extradite 10 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.” Secondly, “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.”

Now, Havana is supporting Moscow’s illegal war in Ukraine. Cuban soldiers are fighting in the Russian military on the front lines.

Ignoring this, and pretending Cuba is not a threat, will end in tragedy.

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