CIP Challenges State Department's List of Terrorist States
By Wayne S. Smith
May 24, 2002

On May 21, the State Department published a new list of "terrorist states" with supposed evidence of their wrongdoing. But with respect to the so-called evidence against Cuba, one can only comment that if this is the best the State Department can come up with, then clearly Cuba should not be on the list at all.

Though it strains and exaggerates, the report ends up without presenting a shred of evidence that Cuba is involved in terrorist activities. It acknowledges that Cuba has signed all 12 UN counter-terrorism conventions as well as the Ibero-American declaration on terrorism at the 2001 Summit, but complains that Castro criticized "the US-led war on terrorism " and has "vacillated" with respect to the global effort against terrorism.

These are grossly misleading statements. Cuba did indeed criticize the US bombing of Afghanistan early in the war because of the high civilian casualties, as did various other governments. Castro also expressed alarm at the prospect of an open-ended war that he feared would entail, as President Bush had said, "every necessary weapon of war," and that would result in the loss of many more civilian lives.

But these criticisms of tactics aside, Cuba consistently expressed its support for the overall struggle against terrorism and offered to cooperate. Cuba immediately condemned the September 11 terrorist attacks, for example, and expressed its solidarity with the American people. [1] And in his speech on September 22, 2001, Castro pledged that: "The territory of Cuba will never be used for terrorist actions against the American people." Cuba, he said, would do "everything within its power to prevent such actions against that people." He also reiterated Cuba's "willingness to cooperate with all countries in the total eradication of terrorism." [2]

Further, in January of 2002, Castro not only made no objection to the detention of Taliban and al-Qaida prisoners at Guantanamo, he offered medical assistance, if needed, and his brother Raul Castro, Cuba's Defense Minister, stated that if any prisoners escaped to Cuban territory, they would be returned to American authorities.

Finally, early this year, Cuba indicated its willingness to sign a bilateral agreement with the United States providing for joint efforts against terrorism. The United States declined. [3] The State Department of course does not mention its refusal in its May 21st report. We have here, then, a truly Kafkaesque situation. Cuba is offering to cooperate; the State Department is refusing that offer, but at the same time complaining that Cuba won't cooperate!

The report also maintains that "Castro continued to view terror as a legitimate revolutionary tactic." This statement is as patently untrue now as when put forward by Undersecretary of State Bolton on May 6. Castro has consistently denounced terror as a tactic since September 11 and called for its "total eradication." CIP challenges the Department of State to come up with a single statement of Castro's since September 11 referring to terror "as a legitimate revolutionary tactic."

Also, one can only conclude from the State Department's May 21 report that no one in the Department talks to other governments. The report, for example, again mentions some 20 Basque ETA members living in Cuba. But many of those Basques have been there for years, having come as the result of an agreement with the government of Felipe Gonzalez in Spain. Others have come subsequently and, it is true, the present Spanish Government does not consider the agreement any longer to be operative. But there is no evidence that any of the Basques are involved in terrorist activities of any kind and the present Spanish government has not asked for the extradition of any of them. And it should be pointed out that the President of the Autonomous Basque Republic has just paid a state visit to Cuba (in May of 2002), which he certainly would not have done if he considered Cuba to be harboring Basque terrorists. The presence of the Basques in Cuba, in short, offers no grounds at all for placing Cuba on the list of terrorist countries.

The report also says that Cuba has provided "some degree of safehaven and support to members of the Colombian FARC and ELN groups." The State Department really should consult with the Colombians on this matter, for the latter do not see the Cuban role as a sinister one. Just last month, in April, the Chairman of the Colombian Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Fernando Tapias, told the House Committee on International Relations that, "there is no information …that Cuba is in any way linked to terrorist activities in Colombia today….Indeed Cuban authorities are buttressing the peace movement….And this is the information that I have from the president and the commissioners…" [4]

Clearly, then, Cuba policies and actions in Colombia do not constitute grounds for placing it on the list of terrorist states. A special case is that of Niall Connolly, who was one of three IRA members arrested in Colombia on suspicion of providing explosives to the FARC. The May 21 report says he had been based in Havana for a number of years. True enough. The Cuban Government itself issued a statement last August saying that Connolly had been the representative in Havana of Sinn Fein, the political arm of the IRA, for a number of years. Nothing improper in that. According to the Cubans, he had left Cuba and returned to Ireland some time earlier. Subsequently, he turned up in Colombia. But no evidence has been brought to light suggesting a Cuban hand behind his activities in Colombia - whatever those activities were. Indeed, to repeat the Colombian Government's position, as stated by General Tapias, "there is no information…that Cuba is in any way linked to terrorist activity in Colombia." [5]

Stretching even harder and again ignoring evidence to the contrary, the May 21 report suggests that Cuba may have harbored members of a Chilean terrorist group, the Frente Patriotico Manuel Rodriguez. Cuba, the report declares, had twice denied extradition requests, claiming that the wanted persons were not in Cuba.

What the report does not say is that this whole episode was thoroughly investigated by the Chilean government, which in February sent a group of senators to Cuba to investigate. They came back completely satisfied with Cuban explanations and convinced that Cuba was not repeat not harboring any Chilean terrorists. Again, no grounds here for placing Cuba on the list of terrorist states.

Inevitably, the May 21 report again raises the issue of American fugitives in Cuba. And yes, there are a number of them. There is no evidence that any are engaged in terrorist activities or any other activities aimed against the United States.

Further, while there are American fugitives in Cuba, there are a number of Cuban fugitives in the United States, several of them terrorists with extensive FBI files. As we have noted elsewhere, President Bush recently insisted that anyone who harbors a terrorist is a terrorist, and that no one can pick and choose their terrorist friends. But the fact is that his father, the first President Bush, freed Orlando Bosch, the Cuban exile arch-terrorist responsible for the deaths of dozens of innocent people and over 30 terrorist acts documented by the U.S. Department of Justice, and freed him at the urgings of Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, now-Governor Jeb Bush, and other Florida politicians. [6] Nor have they ever retracted their support for Bosch, who now lives in Miami and is frequently quoted on exile radio stations and in exile newspapers. Does this then mean that all who support Bosch and harbor him are terrorists, and, thus, that in keeping with President Bush's definition of terrorism, the United States itself should be on the list?

-------------- Endnotes
1.) "Cuba rallies against terrorism, supports US people." The Associated Press, September 16, 2001.
2.) Speech by Fidel Castro. San Antonio de los Banos, September 212, 2001
3.) "Cuba seeks deals with U.S. to fight terror, migrant smuggling, drugs. Agence France Presse. March 19, 2002
4.) House Committee on International Relations hearing on Global Terrorism and Illicit Drugs. FDCH political transcripts. April 24, 2002.
5.) Ibid.
6.) Examples of controversial pardons by previous presidents. A report prepared by Minority staff, Committee on Government Reform, U.S. House of Representatives, April 20, 2001; Hancock, David,
U.S. decides to deport Bosch; terrorist activities are cited. The Miami Herald, June 24, 1989; Christopher Marquis. Indignant exiles rally for Bosch. The Miami Herald, June 25, 1989; Jeffrey Schmalz. Furor over
Castro foe's fate puts Bush on spot in Miami. The New York Times. Aug. 16, 1989; The Bosch case does violence to justice. The New York Times. July 20, 1990; Mark Lacey. Political memo; resurrecting ghosts of
pardons past. The New York Times. March 4, 2001.