Why Cuba Was, and Must Remain, on State Terror List

On December 17, President Obama addressed the nation, explaining how the United States would be changing its policy toward Cuba. At the same time, Raul Castro, Cuba’s dictator, also addressed his country. His rhetoric was significantly different.

Using Orwellian doublespeak, Raul welcomed America’s opening -- but only as long as Cuban "sovereignty," meaning the Castro brothers' ability to repress the Cuban people, would not be infringed. In other words, “don’t count on any changes from us.”

The State Department has recommended removing Cuba from the U.S. list of state supporters of terror. This is just one of the many steps that President Obama needs to take to achieve the full normalization of diplomatic and economic relations that he desires for reasons that are only known to himself.

Despite the recommendation, as a practical matter Cuba's regime and its tactics have not changed much since 1982, when the country was first put on the list.

From the very beginning of his rule, Fidel Castro set his eyes on subverting other countries throughout Latin America and then, later, even Africa. By 1982, through his America Department, Castro was fueling wars in Nicaragua and El Salvador and revolutionary movements in various other countries.

In his State of the Union address that year, Ronald Reagan tipped his hand about putting Cuba on the terrorist list:

To those who would export terrorism and subversion in the Caribbean and elsewhere, especially Cuba and Libya, we will act with firmness.

An earlier CIA report entitled “Patterns of International Terrorism 1980” warned:

Havana openly advocates armed revolution as the only means for leftist forces to gain power in Latin America, and the Cubans have played an important role in facilitating the movement of men and weapons into the region. Havana provides direct support in terms of training, arms, safe havens, and advice to a wide variety of Guerilla groups. Many of these groups engage in terrorist operations.

With the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991 and the ending of its subsidies to Cuba, the island’s economy collapsed. This era was dubbed “The Special Period” by Fidel Castro, and lasted until Hugo Chavez was elected in Venezuela. Chavez took over as the regime’s benefactor and strategic client. Cuba’s active role in subverting other countries shrank by necessity, and not surprisingly, democracy finally began to take hold throughout the region.

In the intervening years, the Castro regime has made removing the U.S. trade embargo a primary goal, and has thus ramped up propaganda efforts to rehabilitate its image. The regime wants to give the impression that it is moderating to breathe dollars into Cuba’s still fragile economy, while in reality they are moderating as little as possible.

But is Cuba still a state sponsor of terrorism? Have the Castro brothers changed their minds about the role of violence in bringing about the Latin America they’d like to see?

During the 2000s, the State Department has continually renewed Cuba’s status as a terrorist state on the basis of some unchallenged facts. The Castro brothers continue to harbor international terrorists from Spain’s Basque separatist group ETA and Colombia’s Marxist rebels FARC, as well as American domestic terrorists from groups like the Black Liberation Army.

Nothing has really changed on this front. It’s estimated that 70 U.S. fugitives are being harbored by Cuba, including Joanne Chesimard (AKA "Assata Shakur"), a convicted cop killer.