US returns Cuba to 'state sponsors of terrorism' list

The US Department of State once again designated Cuba as a state that sponsors terrorism on Jan. 11. In 2015, the Obama administration removed Cuba from the State Sponsors of Terrorism list, which currently includes North Korea, Iran and Syria. In a press statement by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, the State Department accused Cuba of "repeatedly providing support for acts of international terrorism in granting safe harbor to terrorists," and stated that by adding Cuba back to the list, the US "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."

The misdeeds alleged by Pompeo’s statement include harboring fugitives from the US, including Joanne Chesimard [Assata Shakur], Ishmael LaBeet [Ishmail Muslim Ali] and Charles Lee Hill, as well as allegations of Cuban "malign interference" in Venezuela and failure to cooperate with US counterterrorism efforts under Section 40A(a) of the Arms Export Control Act.

Pompeo's statement comes amid rising tensions between the US and Cuba, and the State Department’s highly critical 2019 Human Rights Report. President Donald Trump increased sanctions against Cuba in September. Multiple commercial sanctions were implemented by the Department of the Treasury and Department of Commerce in 2019.

The designation by the State Department subjects Cuba to additional sanctions that penalize countries and individuals that engage in certain types of trade with Cuba, limits US foreign aid to Cuba, and bans defense exports to Cuba.

From Jurist, Jan. 12. Used with permission.

Note: Ironically, Pompeo's accusation of "granting safe harbor to terrorists" is a reference to Havana's hosting of peace delegations from Colombian guerilla groups in their efforts to broker an accord with Bogotá over the past six years.

It should also be noted that while Raúl Castro remains leader of the ruling Communist Party, he was succeeded as Cuba's president in 2018 by Miguel Díaz-Canel.

US: Cuba 'not cooperating' against terrorism

The Biden administration May 20 returned Cuba to the US list of countries which are "not cooperating fully against terrorism." Secretary of State Anthony Blinken made the announcement via Public Notice 11747 in the Federal Register. The full list includes Iran, North Korea, Syria and Venezuela. Blinken must now submit the updated list to Congress for review.

The move was met with derision by Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez, who stated: "The US is well aware of Cuba's clean slate in the struggle against terrorism as well as Cuba’s experience as victim of State terrorism. It resorts to slanders in such a sensitive issue as a pretext to continue the unremitting economic warfare repudiated all over the world." (Jurist)

US drops Cuba from terrorism blacklist

The US has removed Cuba the list of countries not fully cooperating against terrorism, also known as the Not Fully Cooperating Countries (NFCC) list, the State Department confirmed May 15.

Cuba was initially placed on the NFCC list in 2020 due to its refusal to collaborate with Colombia on extradition requests related to members of the National Liberation Army (ELN), a designated terrorist organization. The Cuban government did not formally respond to the extradition requests for ELN leaders filed by Colombia after the group claimed responsibility for the 2019 bombing of a Bogotá police academy that killed 22 people and injured 87 others.

However, the State Department’s decision to remove Cuba from the list acknowledges the changed circumstances, particularly the resumption of law enforcement cooperation between the US and Cuba in 2023, including on counterterrorism issues. Additionally, Colombia's suspension of arrest warrants against the individuals in question in August 2022 rendered Cuba's previous refusal to engage in extradition requests no longer relevant. (Jurist)