State Department Report Offers No Evidence that Cuba is a "Terrorist State"

In the case of Cuba, the State Department’s annual report on “State Sponsors of Terrorism,” issued on April 28 of 2006, is a complete dud. It presents not a shred of evidence to confirm that Cuba is in fact a terrorist state: nothing!

It says, for example, that: “Cuba did not attempt to track, block, or seize terrorist assets, although the authority to do so is contained in Cuba’s Law 93 Against Acts of Terrorism, as well as Instruction 19 of the Superintendent of the Cuban Central Bank”

But the obvious response to that is “what assets?” There is no evidence at all that al-Qaeda or any other foreign terrorist organization has any assets in Cuba. So, there is nothing to seize. The statement does make clear, however, that Cuba has laws on the books against acts of terrorism!

The report goes on to complain that: “To date, the Cuban government has taken no action against al-Qaeda or other terrorist groups.”

But, again, the charge is a non sequitur. Neither al-Qaeda nor any other terrorist group has a presence in Cuba and thus it is not at all clear what “action” Cuba could take against them.

The report complains further that: “Cuba did not undertake any counterterrorism efforts in international or regional fora.”

But this is not really true. Cuba has signed all twelve of the UN’s anti-terrorist resolutions. It also condemned the terrorist attacks on 9/11 and expressed its solidarity with the American people. Subsequently, the Cuban government offered to sign a bi-lateral agreement with the United States to cooperate in the struggle against terrorism. The Bush administration ignored the offer.

As though grasping for something–anything!–to say, the report complains that Cuba “maintains friendly ties with Iran and North Korea.” True, but unless there is some evidence that those ties extend to cooperation in terrorist activities or planning–and no such evidence is presented –, they are not pertinent to the question of whether Cuba is or is not a “terrorist state.”

The report repeats its annual complaint that Cuba permits American fugitives to live in Cuba and is not responsive to U.S. requests that they be extradited.

There are American fugitives in Cuba, yes. Most are hijackers who came in the 1970s and have lived in Cuba since then. There are a number, probably 7 or 8, wanted for crimes in the United States, and it is true that Cuba has not responded positively to U.S. requests for their extradition. But two things must be noted about that. First, the 1904 extradition treaty is for all practical purposes no longer operative because the U.S. has not honored a single Cuban request for extradition since 1959. Second, by and large, the “crimes” committed in the U.S. had a political background, and Article VI of the old 1904 treaty excludes the extradition of those whose crimes had a “political character.”

Further, as Robert Muse, an international lawyer, noted in a report on the matter back in 2004, none of the U.S. fugitives in Cuba provides a basis for declaring Cuba to be a “state sponsor of terrorism.” Legal authority to make such a designation is found in section 6(j) of the 1979 Export Administration Act, and under that section, it would have to be demonstrated that the fugitives had committed “terrorist” acts and that those acts were “international” in character. Muse states that he has been unable to identify a single U.S. fugitive in Cuba who meets those twofold criteria. And so, the fugitives are extraneous to the definition of Cuba as a “state sponsor of terrorism.”[1]

Strangely, the report raises the case of Luis Posada Carriles, the Cuban exile arch-terrorist charged with the bombing of a Cubana airliner back in 1976 with the loss of 73 lives, for other terrorist acts in Cuba and for planning the assassination of Fidel Castro in Panama in the year 2000, under circumstances that could have cost the lives of hundreds. The report says Cuba demands that he be surrendered to them. This is inaccurate. It is the government of Venezuela that has requested his extradition, which the United States, without legal grounds, has refused. Posada Carriles is being held in custody in El Paso, Texas. Clearly, he has received preferential treatment from the U.S. government. Otherwise, he would have been deported to Venezuela or tried here for his crimes.

Posada Carriles joins a list of other exile terrorists being sheltered by the U.S. Orlando Bosch, who also participated in the bombing of the Cubana airliner back in 1976, is probably the most notorious of these. It would appear from this report, then, that it is the United States and not Cuba that is harboring terrorists!

As it does every year, the report mentions the presence in Cuba of members of the Basque ETA guerrilla organization, and the Colombian FARC and ELN. In past years, the State Department had tried to suggest that they were in Cuba against the wishes of their respective governments and had sinister objectives, but that suggestion has been shot down year after year by representatives of the Colombian and Spanish governments. This year, no such allegations are made. It is acknowledged that they are living in Cuba legally. Further, the report states that: “There is no information concerning terrorist activities of these or other organizations on Cuban territory.The United States is not aware of specific terrorist enclaves in the country.”

If they are there legally and are not involved in terrorist activities, then how does their presence in any way lead to the conclusion that Cuba is a “state sponsor of terrorism?”

Indeed, how does anything in this report lead to that conclusion?

[1] See The Center for International Policy’s International Policy Report, “Cuba Should Not be on the Terrorist List,” November 2004, pp.4-5.

WAYNE S. SMITH is a senior fellow at the Center for International Policy in Washington, D.C., and a retired foreign service officer with service in the Soviet Union and the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research