Sunday, February 20, 2011

It's not time to remove Cuba from the terror list

It's not time to remove Cuba from the terror list
Posted By José R. Cárdenas Friday, February 18, 2011 - 7:53 PM Share

As the world's attention remains rapt with the surge of "people power"
in North Africa and the Middle East toppling and threatening to topple
unpopular dictators, the Brookings Institution this week hosted a panel
discussion on ways the United States could better co-operate with the
five-decade-old Castro dictatorship in Cuba.

Talk about a monumental case of bad timing.

Keynoting the session was former New Mexico governor and self-styled
diplomatic troubleshooter Bill Richardson, who was in Cuba as recently
as last August leading a trade mission of businessmen looking to cut
deals with the Castro regime. (Agricultural products are exempt from
the embargo.)

Apparently oblivious to the irony of advocating normalizing relations
with the Castro dictatorship even as thousands are risking their lives
to oppose tyrannies elsewhere, Governor Richardson forged ahead with
ways the Obama administration could improve relations with the Castro
regime by lessening current U.S. sanctions.

Among them, removing Cuba from the State Department's list of state
sponsors of terrorism. According to Richardson, "My view is that this
terrorism list is not very consistent. It's an emotional issue." In
other words, Cuba's listing lacks merit or substance.

Removing Cuba from the terrorist list has long been a goal of the
anti-embargo lobby. It seems the designation tends to arise as an
inconvenient talking point when trying to persuade others as to why the
United States needs a wholesale reversal of its policy towards the last
dictatorship in the Americas. But to fatuously claim that the reason
Cuba remains on the terrorist list is one of "emotion" -- presumably
among Cuban-American voters in South Florida -- is to willfully ignore
decades of the historical record.

This is a regime that since even before it seized power has used terror
as an instrument of both domestic and international policy to achieve
its goals. At the height of the Castro regime's international influence
in the late 1970s into the 1980s, Cuba helped to build up and unify at
least 27 different terrorist groups in the Western Hemisphere, totaling
about 25,000 armed and trained members by 1987.

Around the same time, the State and Defense Departments estimated that a
minimum of 20,000 individuals from around the world, including more than
10,000 Latin Americans, had attended one or more of the more than fifty
guerrilla or terrorist training courses offered in Cuban military
facilities since Castro came to power (the most infamous of trainees
being, of course, Carlos the Jackal).

Nor was the Castro regime content to victimize the unfortunate citizens
of Latin America and Africa, as it aiding and abetting terrorist groups
operating on our own soil, including the Weather Underground (of Bill
Ayres fame) and the militant Puerto Rican group, the Macheteros. Victor
Manuel Gerena, a mastermind of the Macheteros' 1983 robbery of a Well
Fargo depot in Connecticut, has lived safely in Cuba for decades,
joining U.S. fugitives Joanne Chesimard and Charlie Hill, who are wanted
in the U.S. for the murders of U.S. police officers, as well as some 70
other fugitives from U.S. justice.

In addition, following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in the United
States, Cuban intelligence sent numerous fake tipsters into U.S.
embassies abroad to sidetrack and impede U.S. counter-terrorism efforts.
(Also, following 9/11, U.S. authorities rolled up the Cuban spy Ana
Belen Montes at the Defense Intelligence Agency, not wanting to risk her
information being passed on by Cuba to other U.S. enemies.)

But the anti-embargo lobby wants us to forget all that. They will tell
uninformed listeners that in 1992 the Castro regime "renounced" the use
of violence to achieve its political ends. But there has never been any
profound change of heart, expressions of remorse, or even compensation
offered for victims of Cuban-sponsored terrorism. No, it was merely a
change of tactics, forced on the Castro regime by the fact that in 1991
the Soviet Union collapsed and, with it, its billions in annual
subsidies to Cuba. Castro could simply no longer afford to do it, at
least on the scale to which he had become accustomed.

Indeed, the Castro regime can no more renounce violence as an instrument
of policy than it can renounce its totalitarian state.

Clearly, Cuba's designation as a state sponsor of terror is well-earned.
The Obama Administration should ignore specious entreaties to delist
Cuba as a state sponsor of terror. As has been proven over and over,
tyranny's best friend is a failure to remember. If Fidel Castro or his
brother Raul wants to be removed from the State Department list, there
are any number of actions they could take: true expressions of
repentance, concessions, recompense, and an accounting for past
misdeeds. I, for one, am not holding my breath.

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