USA Today: Cuba Still Provides Sanctuary for Wanted Terrorists

Thursday, April 9, 2015
It's unclear why CSIS's Carl Meacham tries to use the "repairs" excuse for Cuba's illegal weapons trafficking to North Korea, when the U.N. Panel of Experts' Report specifically called-out Castro's regime for this lie:

"It is the Panel’s view that examining individually the items and their handling suggest that some, if not all, of the consignment was not expected to be returned to Cuba."

From USA Today:

Cuba still provides sanctuary for wanted terrorists

President Obama is weighing whether to remove Cuba as a state sponsor of terrorism even as the island nation maintains ties with nations such as North Korea and continues to provide a sanctuary for militants.

Obama plans to meet Cuban President Raúl Castro at a summit of the Americas in Panama on Friday and Saturday as he awaits a State Department review of whether Cuba still belongs on its list of terror sponsors.

Removal from the list after 33 years would allow American banks and businesses to operate in Cuba and remove an impediment to full diplomatic relations with the United States.

The State Department has sent a recommendation to the White House that Cuba be removed from the list, CNN reported Wednesday. It said the White House could announce the change as soon as Thursday, citing two unidentified administration officials.

To remove Cuba from the list, U.S. officials must find that Cuba has not engaged in acts of terrorism in the previous six months and has made assurances it will not do so in the future. If Obama decides to remove Cuba from the list, he must submit a report to Congress, which will have 45 days to block the move or allow it to happen.

The most difficult obstacle to overcome is the sanctuary Cuba continues to offer those deemed terrorists by the U.S. government.

They include members of a violent Spanish separatist movement, the Basque Fatherland and Liberty (ETA), which the State Department estimates has killed more than 800 people since the 1960s.

Cuba has also provided safe haven to members of the Colombian guerrilla army known as the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, which has been waging a civil war with the Colombian government since the 1960s.

In addition, Cuba is providing refuge for dozens of U.S. fugitives, including one of the FBI's most wanted terrorists — Joanne Chesimard, a member of the Black Liberation Army. She shot and killed a New Jersey State Police trooper execution-style in 1973. She received a life sentence but escaped prison and made her way to Cuba.

"It is essential to recognize that the Castro regime has a long track record of providing sanctuary to terrorists and harboring U.S. fugitives who have murdered American citizens, while undermining national security," Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., wrote in a Feb. 26 letter to Secretary of State John Kerry. "Before Cuba is removed from (the list), the Castro regime must be held to account for these acts and American fugitives must be brought back to face justice in the U.S."

Cuba's stance on accepting international fugitives has been changing, however. Earlier this year, the State Department concluded that "Cuba's ties to ETA have become more distant." The government says it no longer accepts ETA members for sanctuary and has moved eight of the two dozen ETA members out of the country.

Cuba's relationship with the FARC has also changed as Havana has become the host city for multiple rounds of peace negotiations between the guerrilla movement and Colombia's government. That process has been praised by the United Nations and the United States, which appointed a special envoy to the negotiations earlier this year.

While Cuba continues to deny American requests to extradite Chesimard and others, a Congressional Research Service report last August found that Cuba has returned fugitives in three cases in recent years.

Cuba's support of rogue regimes is another source of controversy. In the past two years, it has twice been caught shipping military equipment in violation of international laws.

In March, Colombian officials arrested the captain of a Chinese ship headed for Cuba that contained 100 tons of gunpowder, 2.6 million detonators and other military equipment. And in July 2013, Panamanian authorities stopped a North Korean ship trying to cross the Panama Canal. After digging through 200,000 bags of Cuban sugar, they found containers filled with surface-to-air missile systems, two disassembled MiG-21 aircraft and other military equipment.

Cuba can argue that it is forced to buy spare military parts from nations such as North Korea because the still-to-be-lifted U.S. economic embargo and being on the terror list bar Cuba from dealing with U.S. suppliers, says Carl Meacham, director of the America's Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

"They can't go to Boeing and say, 'Hey, we have to refurbish our tanks and our planes and our helicopters' because they've operating as a pariah country," Meacham said. "They've been isolated."

Cuba also remains a close ally of Venezuela, where President Nicolás Maduro has suppressed anti-government protests and arrested political opponents.

Despite such activities, the State Department has concluded that Cuba's days as a global promoter of terrorism and armed insurrections are over. "There was no indication that the Cuban government provided weapons or paramilitary training to terrorist groups (in the past year)," the State Department said in a report this year.

That does not satisfy critics who say Cuba continues to behave badly.

"I think the Obama administration has already made a political decision to remove Cuba from the list," said Mauricio Claver-Carone, executive director of the U.S.-Cuba Democracy PAC, which opposed Obama's decision to re-establish diplomatic ties with Cuba. "But if the assessment is made on facts and law, it's very difficult to remove them."