Interestingly, not once throughout the CSIS panel did any of the speakers discuss that U.S. law toward Cuba requires a two-prong approach: (1)  helping the Cuban people and (2) isolating the Cuban regime. They focused only on prong (1).

There are news reports this morning that NSA leaker Edward Snowden may be headed to Havana, Cuba to hide from  U.S. authorities. If Snowden is going to Cuba, it is because he knows he will find safe-haven from U.S. law for doing things that have been extremely detrimental to our global war against radical Islam. If true, it further reinforces that the State Department’s recent report keeping Cuba on the state sponsors of terror list was the correct one.

Under U.S. law, the designation of placing a country on the list a legal and political decision by the Executive Branch. The legal justification is found in numerous laws including Sec. 6(j) of the Export Administration Act, Sec. 40 of the Arms Export Control Act, and Sec. 620A of the Foreign Assistance Act. Cuba earned its spot on the state sponsors of terrorism list since 1982. Please note that the release of the report does not constitute that there was a review by the U.S. government.

Why has Cuba and the Cuban Communist Party earned the designation? Here is a small and partial list based solely on what is in the public domain:

  1. Cuba has a large number of individual and entities listed on the Treasury Department’s Specially Designated Nationals List (based on numerous legal authorities);
  2. The harboring of an FBI fugitive in Cuba since 1984: cop killer Joanne Chesimard. Chesimard was a member of the radical left-wing terrorist group, the Black Liberation Army and is wanted for her role in the first-degree murder of New Jersey State Trooper Werner Foerster. Trooper Foerster was shot and killed with his own weapon in the name of “black power”. There is a petition to have Chesimard extradited to the United States;
  3. Cuba’s harboring of Chilean terrorists linked to the assassination of Senator Jaime Guzman,  founder of one of Chile’s conservative political parties, the Independent Democratic Union (The death of a conservative leader does not rank very high with Cuban regime supporters in the United States;
  4. The false peace process the Cuba claims to be brokering the past few years with the Colombian FARC terrorist group and Colombia’s government;
  5. The harboring of FARC terrorists;
  6. The Cuban regime’s support of Venezuela and vice-versa. I could write several articles on this gem. Venezuela should have been added to the state sponsors list years ago. But that is a subject for another post;
  7. Harboring of Spain ETA terrorists;
  8. Cuba’s close and ongoing relationship with state sponsor of terror Iran and others state sponsors of terrorism;
  9. Cuba has engaged, and likely still engages in a biological weapons program. If it does not, then why does the regime refuse to allow inspectors at sensitive sites throughout the island;
  10. The Ana Belen Montes espionage case, among others including Kendall Myers and the Cuban Five;
  11. And, the most important reason, it is in the U.S. national interest to do so.

A few weeks ago a Washington, DC think tank, CSIS, hosted a conference titled, “The Case to Remove Cuba from the Terrorist List.” You can listen to the panel here. Here are some of the reasons the panelists believe that Cuba should be removed from the terrorist list:

  1. Calls from leaders in the Western Hemisphere to remove Cuba from the list (Note: with few exceptions, there are no leaders in the Western Hemisphere that are truly allies of the United States. Moreover, this is not a factor for putting Cuba on the list);
  2. Strategic move by the United States by removing Cuba from the list would help people-to-people contacts (Note: this is not an element of any of the state sponsors terrorism designation criteria. And, what about prong 1 of U.S. policy, pressure on the Cuba regime?);
  3. See #2 in the prior section of this post. The panelist argue it is not a factor, and if it were, they argued the “political exception” to extradition treaties and, at times, seemed to question the logic of calling Chesimard a terrorist;
  4. They glossed over #7, supra, by saying Spain has asked Cuba to keep them in Cuba by granting them Cuban citizenship (Note: This is absolutely false and I have confirmed it with Spanish government colleagues currently serving);
  5. Listing Cuba as a state sponsor of terrorism is an “arbitrary and capricious” act (Note: for national security law purposes, this legal standard is a weak one to use and, at times, practically completely inapplicable to the Cuba question);
  6. Judgements piling up in U.S. federal court because people are using the designation to file claims against Cuba (Note: I’d argue this is consistent with U.S. law and policy of pressuring the regime);
  7. There are countries that should be on the list but are not on the list;
  8. It serves no useful purpose (Note: if that is the case, why spend so much time talking about it?);
  9. The Cuban government is a good at “spinning things” so they have used the designation for propaganda purposes in Cuba;
  10. It is an extreme position to have Cuba on this list.

Interestingly, not once throughout the CSIS panel did any of the speakers discuss that U.S. law toward Cuba requires a two-prong approach: (1)  helping the Cuban people and (2) isolating the Cuban regime. They focused only on prong (1). We could go on and on. Reach your own conclusions. Folks who support removing Cuba from the list are mainly people who oppose current U.S. policy.  It is that simple. They are trying to make it political because it advances, in their minds, a path forward to ease sanctions on the regime.

The reality is that the political ball is in Cuba’s court, not the United States. The regime knows what it has to do and it choses not to change its ways. For now, a “small sector in Miami and DC” (as people said several times during the CSIS conference) will continue to advance efforts to isolate the Cuban regime as well as support the people of Cuba. That is a good thing. If we want to reach agreement on outstanding questions such as U.S. property claims against Cuba, Cuba’s debt, and much more (see my list as to why Cuba should stay on the terrorism list), we need to maintain a firm hand.

Study the history of modern, and not so modern dictatorships, and one thing stands out: they crumble sooner or later. The Castro brothers have lasted longer than most because Cuba is an island. Literally, an island in the middle of the Caribbean. In prior times, Cuba was important for Western Hemisphere geo-strategic purposes, but the U.S. can make due with the status quo. Just look at the last five decades. The U.S. has managed just fine without Cuba and, as a bonus, we even maintain a military base there.

We can argue ad nauseam who was right and what policy was not, but we won. That is all that matters. It is now up to the regime to decide how it wants to spend its waning days. Why do some people insist on handing over to Cuban one propaganda victory over another over another? That is what we do every time the U.S. weakens some component of U.S. policy. The have been trying to do so since the Bush Administration.

If Edward Snowden is headed to Cuba, he will become yet another token of the regime’s  resistance to the U.S. The thing is, the Cuban people on the island are growing very impatient and the regime is running out of political tricks. We should take advantage of this political pressure cooker and increase economic sanctions once and for all. Then and only then will the Cubans regime come to its senses. And, if Snowden is not going to Cuba but to some other country in the Western Hemisphere, I can all but guarantee that Cuba is somehow lending a hand to make it so.

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