Politifact could have saved itself a lot of time by simply reading the conclusions of the U.N.'s Panel of Experts, which found Cuba's smuggling of weapons to North Korea to be the largest and most egregious violation of international sanctions to date.
Click here to read a summary of the U.N. Panel of Expert's conclusions.
Perdue mostly right on shady weapons deal
The White House announced last week that President Barack Obama would be eliminating a major obstacle to the restoration of diplomatic relations with Cuba by removing it from America’s list of state sponsors of terrorism.
Since 1982, Cuba has been on the State Department’s list of state sponsors of terrorism, a designation it has shared with Syria, Sudan and Iran and that triggers sanctions limiting U.S. aid, defense exports and certain financial transactions.
Supporters say this is a necessary step if Obama is going to turn the page on the Cold War-era dispute that has snarled diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba for more than five decades.
Some Republicans, including freshman U.S. Sen. David Perdue of Georgia, object to taking Cuba off the list of state sponsors of terrorism.
"The Castro regime, time and again, has violated international norms,’ Perdue, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said in a statement issued the day after the White House announcement.
"I am deeply concerned that President Obama continues to embolden our enemies and empower dictators from Russia to Iran, and now Cuba. Cuba must prove it is willing to change its destructive and oppressive behavior before the United States removes it as a state sponsor of terrorism.
He cited several examples of Cubas destructive and oppressive behavior, including an incident in 2013 when, he said, Cuba secretly shipped 240 metric tons of weapons to North Korea, violating a U.N.embargo.
PolitiFact Georgia decided to fact-check Perdue’s statement about the weapons shipment.
We reached out to Mark Bednar, a Perdue spokesman, who sent us several news accounts of the incident where aging Cuban weapons were found aboard a North Korean-flagged ship.
In July 2013, Fox News reported that Panamanian officials stopped the ship Chong Chon Gang ferrying undeclared weapons and armaments, including two Soviet-era MiG fighters and surface-to-air missile system, from Cuba, in apparent violation of U.N. sanctions. The weapons were hidden under 200,000 bags of sugar.
The report said the Cuban government acknowledged about a day later that the cargo included 240 metric tons of "obsolete defensive weapons." Government officials claimed the equipment was meant to be repaired in North Korea and returned to Cuba.
Three members of the ship’s crew were arrested on arms trafficking charges. The ship was allowed to return to Cuba in 2014 after a $700,000 fine was paid, the BBC reported.
A State Department spokesperson told us this week that the administration considers the weapons shipment to North Korea in 2013 an "egregious violation of U.N. sanctions."
The administration, the spokesperson said, has worked to ensure that those responsible "pay a price for their wrongdoing."
"The administration also worked to maximize the diplomatic cost to Cuba for its role in the incident, including repeatedly condemning Cuba’s role in the violation in meetings of the UN Security Council," she said. "While Cuba’s actions were a clear violation of international law, they do not constitute support for acts of international terrorism and do not constitute a bar to rescission of their (state sponsor of terrorism) designation."
Cuban was placed on the list in 1982 because of its efforts to promote revolution in the Western Hemisphere. North Korea spent 20 years on the list but was removed in 2008 by President George W. Bush. North Korea was placed on the list in 1988 for planting a bomb on a passenger plane headed from Baghdad to Seoul. The plane exploded south of Burma, and all on board were killed.
In the current review of Cuba’s standing, the administration focused on ‘the narrow question of whether Cuba provided any support for international terrorism during the previous six months and whether Cuba has provided assurances that it will not support acts of international terrorism in the future, consistent with the statutory standard for rescission," the State Department spokeswoman said..
A senior administration official told reporters earlier this month that Cuban leaders, including Fidel and Raul Castro, have repeatedly and publicly decried terrorist acts.
Congress has 45 days from receiving the president’s report to pass a joint resolution prohibiting the rescission. If that would occur, the president would have veto power and Congress the power of the veto override.
Georgia Sen. David Perdue said he objects to plans to take Cuba off the list of state sponsors of terrorism, a move that was announced last week by the White House. He said that the Castro regime in Cuba has violated international norms.
Among the specific examples he cited was Cuba "secretly shipping 240 metric tons of weapons to North Korea in 2013 in violation of a U.N. embargo." News reports and statements from the administration back up Perdue’s claim about the incident.
The administration said it narrowly focused on whether Cuban provided any support for international terrorism in the prior six months and whether the Cuban government had provided assurances that it will not support acts of international terrorism in the future, That is context the reader needs.
For that reason, we rate Perdue's statement Mostly True.
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