US re-designates Cuba as ‘State Sponsor of Terrorism’

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PTI

Washington

The Trump administration has re-designated Cuba as a “State Sponsor of Terrorism”, reversing an Obama-era decision days ahead of the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Monday that the US government had been focused from the start on denying the Castro regime the resources it uses to “oppress its people at home, and countering its malign interference in Venezuela and the rest of the Western Hemisphere”.

“The State Department has designated Cuba as a State Sponsor of Terrorism for repeatedly providing support for acts of international terrorism in granting safe harbor to terrorists,” Pompeo said.

“With this action, we will once again hold Cuba’s government accountable and send a clear message: the Castro regime must end its support for international terrorism and subversion of US justice,” he said.

The previous Obama Administration had previously removed from this designation, which subjects Cuba to sanctions that penalise persons and countries engaging in certain trade with it, restricts US foreign assistance, bans defence exports and sales, and imposes certain controls on exports of dual-use items.

Cuba returns to the list following its “broken commitment” to stop supporting terrorism as a condition of its removal by the previous administration in 2015. On May 13, 2020, the State Department notified Congress that it had certified Cuba under Section 40A (a) of the Arms Export Control Act as “not cooperating fully” with US counterterrorism efforts in 2019.

“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,” Pompeo said.

According to Pompeo, members of the National Liberation Army (ELN), a US-designated foreign terrorist organisation, travelled to Havana to conduct peace talks with the Colombian government in 2017.

Citing peace negotiation protocols, Cuba has 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, Pompeo said.

Cuba also harbours several US fugitives from justice wanted on or convicted of charges of political violence, many of whom have resided in Cuba for decades, he alleged.

For example, the Cuban regime has refused to return Joanne Chesimard, on the FBI’s ‘most wanted terrorists’ list for executing New Jersey State Trooper Werner Foerster in 1973; Ishmael LaBeet, convicted of killing eight people in the US Virgin Islands in 1972; Charles Lee Hill, charged with killing New Mexico state policeman Robert Rosenbloom in 1971; and others.

Pompeo said the US would continue to support the Cuban people in their desire for a democratic government and respect for human rights, including freedom of religion, expression, and association.