Meeting a Terrorist in Cuba

Graham Sowa

graham1HAVANA TIMES — I’ve lived in Cuba for three years and I’ve met my share of patriots, dissidents, gusanos, and human rights activists.  I’ve met Communists and Anarchists.  One time I think I ran into some Surrealists…or maybe they were just homeless vagabonds…either way, my point is that in three years of living here I’ve never, ever, met a terrorist.

If you work for the US State Department perhaps you are surprised to read that previous affirmation.

I surely was surprised when I read that Cuba has been listed as a “State Sponsor of Terrorism” in the Country Report on Terrorism issued by my government the other week.

What is your problem United States State Department?  Did trolling octogenarians in Miami and their younger sycophants in a few congressional seats bully you into adding Cuba to the list?

Or do you genuinely feel that Cuba is a threat to our homeland?  I promise you:  Cuba is no threat to the United States of America.

The Cuban military exists on paper more than in practice.  The armed forces mostly function as a tourism enterprise and farming initiative.  Tourism work and tips in hard currency are the retirement plan for military lifers.

The United States Defense Intelligence Agency states that the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Cuba are “…generally incapable of mounting effective operations above the battalion level, and that equipment was mostly in storage and unavailable at short notice.” So. Freaking. Scary.

graham2When I ask my Cuban friends about military service they say they don’t even have to live in barracks or handle real guns. Most just show up to tick their name on the attendance list then bounce.

In the street I see more British and American flags on cars, bicitaxis, in front of homes, and on clothing than I see Cuban flags.  Surely this can only be the sign of a population brainwashed to have an absolute hatred of our country and our values of freedom, right President Obama?

The State Department continues using Cuba’s “support” of insurgent movements in Spain and Columbia as an excuse to add its name to the list of terrorist supporters.  Both claims are wrong.

The Spanish Government sees no threat originating from Cuba. In fact, Cuba helps in negotiations in regard to Euskadi Ta Askatasuna (ETA or the Basque Homeland and Freedom organization).  How to do I know?  In 2011 U.S. Brig. General John Adams (U.S. Army Ret.) personally told me when he visited the medical school.  The summary of his findings can be seen here.

In regard to Columbia and Revolutionary Armed Forces, Cuba’s only participation of late has been in denouncing violence and promoting negotiations right here on the island.  The Columbian Government attended these negotiations as recently as April of this year.

graham3In a world where people strap on bombs and blow up bus terminals, crash passenger jets into office buildings, shoot up marketplaces, and then post videos of all of that on the internet there exists no justification to equate the Government of Cuba with terrorists.

In a world where terrorism is measured by bomb crater depths, blast radius, and body counts the United States State Department is lying to the American people when it names Cuba as a state sponsor of terrorism.

Instead of alienating our geographic next-door neighbor we should talk with Cuba about how we can work together to combat terrorism.  Cuba proposed two such talks in 2010 and 2012.  President Obama did not respond.

The United States Drug Enforcement Agency has a brilliant track record in coordinating its operations with Cuba. The United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement also has a healthy working relationship with their Cuban counterparts.

If President Obama is serious about protecting the American people he should remove Cuba from the list of state sponsors of terrorism and at least give the Cubans a chance to explain their ideas on bilaterally combating terrorism.


Graham Sowa: I've been living in Cuba for three years now. I would like to blame my obvious hair loss seen in this updated photo on the rigors of life here and medical school, but it is probably just genetic. I've made some of the strongest friendships during my time in Cuba from other writers on this website. The strength of those friendships has almost restored my faith that the online world can lead to offline and real life change. On that same note I've adjusted to using internet one or two hours a month. In the meantime I have rediscovered things like flipping through the pages of books, writing stuff down by hand, and having to admit that I don't know something instead of rapidly looking up the answer on Google while the teacher isn't looking.

29 thoughts on “Meeting a Terrorist in Cuba

  • Most often i am traveling between Cuba the UK and the united snakes and do not get to respond Often as well i do not care what anyone says I am going to stand my ground

    The desc of cave people cannot be trusted and it has nothing to do with hate Its about history and our story! Destruction is in the DNA of the caveman and i hate that

  • Now that Snowden has done what he has done is their anybody who still believes amerikkka or that they have secrets I love it
    Very happy Why? As an Angolan liberated by Cuba i have nothing to lose My Email is withoutacountry?

  • But i do live here Next? i am a cit and also a former cit of the united snakes of amerikkka ?

  • Believe it or not Graham, I share your disgust. The difference is that while I see the failure of US policy towards Cuba in its goal to cause popular unrest, I blame the Castros. Had the revolution worked to create the ‘New Man’ as promised or as Che said “to create a higher standard of living than that enjoyed by our enemy to the north”, I would be first in line to protest the US stance. However, your ‘disgust’ with US policy as expressed, is used as an endorsement of 55 years of Castro-ism that has nearly destroyed Cuba. Yes, US policy has “wasted” hundreds of millions of dollars. Castro’s policies has wasted millions of lives.

  • That is a non-sequitur and irrelevant. Arguing that the US is guilty of supporting terrorists (and yes, they have done so) in no way refutes the case that Cuba belongs on the US list of state-sponsors of terrorism.

  • Considering the number of innocent people killed by US drone strikes in Pakistan and Afghanistan, Cuba can hardly be the one termed a terrorist state.

  • The US report does specify the issues which cause Cuba to remain on the list. It’s not about past crimes, but ongoing activities.

    Thank you for pointing out that the Venezuelan govt continues to support the terrorists of FARC.

  • As Walter says in The Big Lebowski ¨Calmer than you¨ But kidding aside, I´m pissed because my generation came up during the War on Terror and the money spent and the lives lost all over the globe. I don´t like to see all of that trivialized by some blowhards just to get their rocks off watching the Cuban government react to their rediculous accusations. And yeah, I pretty much am trying to show my disgust of US policy toward Cuba, so I´m glad its apparant. 55 years of backward thinking and reactionary BS has bought us a whole bunch of nothing but wasted taxpayer money and a caribbean island isolated from outside and from within.

  • By your criteria just about every country the U.S. does business with (China I´m looking hard at you) is terrorist. And then again, so is the United States! And Chevron! Because they buy oil from FARC supporting Chavistas, right? Here is the problem: by calling Cuba a supporter of terrorism it cheapens the term while also failing to describe, accurately, Cuba´s involvement with government and groups that the U.S. does not look kindly upon. Both of those things get in the way of making ancy progress in resolving problems. So you keep up with your rhetoric, and meet me in reality when the hot air runs out.

  • El Malo, while these experiences were clearly unwelcome, and to your mind totally unjust, they do not equate to terrorism.

  • Let me guess: you do not live in Cuba. What would happen to Snowden if he were Cuban and he divulged State secrets. Remember what happened to the independent journalist, Calixto Martinez, when he published information about the humanitarian aid that was left rotting in an airport hanger in Havana and about the spread of cholera in Bayamo? Beatings and prison.

  • i am a supporter of anyone who stands thier ground against amerikkkn terror Call me anything you choose just don;t call me late for dinner Snowden is a hero and amerikkka is about to learn more than it wants to about politics in amerikkka. The unitedsnakesofamerika is a snake and its crawling all over them smh

  • First these weren’t ex-ETA militants. They were Etarras full blown.
    That agreement meant that they would be rendered harmless. While in Cuba they trained FARC terrorists and traveled to Venezuela to do so. that is they were involved in terrorism.
    That was the opposite of what Spain wanted.

    The agreement dates from 2000. The problem between Spain and Cuba about the activities of CNI agents monitoring the activities of these ETA terrorists in Cuba dates from 2009.

    Spain also has demanded the extradition of some of them. Refused by Cuba. that shows Spain sees them as a threat.

    Cuba clearly did not keep its side of the bargain.

    It is clear that Spain, because of its use of covert surveillance and demands of extradition, still sees these men as a threat.


    “España pide a Cuba la extradición de un etarra que quiso huir a Venezuela”, EFE, Madrid | 14/10/2011

    La solicitud forma parte de una causa que investiga la colaboración entre ETA y la guerrilla de las FARC, en la que procesó a Urbieta por un delito de tenencia de explosivos en colaboración con banda terrorista

    “El secreto de ETA en Cuba”, El Pais
    El alto funcionario cubano que tuteló durante 15 años a los activistas etarras en la isla habla por primera vez y revela sus actividades y sus relaciones con el Gobierno de Castro.

  • wow, you guys…so complicated

  • I had lived in Cuba for 27 years, I had my share of brutality in 8 years of hard labor in concentrations camps from Holguin to San Ramon in Manzanillo. I had run with the most horrible Stalinist system there is. Than after a got out they deported me to US. living behind my beloved friends and family, and force to adapt to live in exile. For you Mr. Graham Sowa to say that Cuba is not a terrorist state is the most ridiculous thing I had ever heard . Why don´t you move there permanently?

  • The ex-ETA are in Cuba as part of an agreement with the Spanish government deemed necessary to stop the conflict. From wikipedia:

    “Several ex-militants were sent from France through Panama to reside in Cuba after an agreement of the Spanish government (under Felipe González) with Cuba”


    There is no threats originating from Cuba, the Spanish government are simply tracking them to make sure they remain inactive.

  • The author confidently affirms: “the Spanish Government sees no threat originating from Cuba”. Can he please explain why Spain then felt it necessary all these years to have agents of the CNI watching these men in Cuba?

    There was a famous clash between Spain and Cuba over the covert activities by the CNI in Cuba in 2009. If there was no threat and full agreement covert operations would not be necessary.

    “La Habana se quejó por vía diplomática por las actividades de los agentes del servicio secreto español”, Redacción CE | 21/05/2009 11:30 am

  • “If you support a terrorist, you are a terrorist.” – President George W. Bush, 2003 – hence Iliana Ros and the Diaz Balart brothers can be labeled terrorists for supporting Bosch and Posada for 20 years. Their fathers claimed they would never return to Cuba as long as Castro was alive. Cubans will tell you that’s because they would have faced criminal charges and likely death sentences. In Cuba Ileana is known as ‘Lo Cochino – The Pig”. The Diaz brothers, Coco y Loco – Dumb and Dumber. The troika is known as Los Tres Schefflios – the Three Stooges. Miami Mafia? No. Miami Cartel – absolutely.
    Read and learn more in Cuba 54 – It’s Time to End 54 Years of Abuse of 11 Million Cubans by the Miami Cartel.

  • An interesting story. To be sure, I’m not asking you to avoid criticism where it is due. Just to be accurate in the terms used to describe the people in question. “Hard-bitten anti-Castroists” would be more accurate.

    The problem with the term “Miami Mafia” is that it helps propagate the myth that anybody and everybody who opposes Castro is a henchman of Lansky and Batista. That’s the Big Lie that the Castro regime uses to smear all their enemies.

  • …a brief story. When my wife first arrived in the US from Cuba, we took a trip to Miami to visit her cousin who has lived in the US since the Mariel boatlift. Anyway, he introduced her to some producers at a prominent Cuba-centric TV station in Miami who were thrilled to talk to an ex-national newscaster from Cuba. They assumed that a ‘guajira’ like her would be equally excited to talk to them. They were unaware that she had contacts with CNN in San Francisco and a job offer in the offing. When she turned down their pitifully offensive offer, they set out to punish her by spreading the word that she was a communist because she had worked in such a high profile job for the regime. Their “mafia-like” reaction gave us first-hand experience at to how certain extremists in Miami can be just as difficult as their counterparts in Havana. That said, you are correct in admonishing me if not simply to point out how my words can be used to continue the ugly name-calling that serves no productive purpose.
    Point well made.

  • According to Diario de Cuba, a new Cuban documentary called “Los Deportados,” extols three ETA terrorists residing in Cuba.

    The director has said the goal of the film is to “bring Cuban citizens closer to the reality of these people.”

    One of the terrorists, José Miguel Arrugaeta, who was originally captured in France, but escaped and traveled clandestinely through various countries to make his way to Cuba, stated:

    “Coming to Cuba gave us a certain sense of security. We knew that the Cuban government was serious. I had the feeling of having arrived in a safe place.”

  • And this:

    “Castro Launders Billions for FARC Terrorists”

    According to Juan Juan (J.J.) Almeida, son of Castro’s former Vice-President, General Juan Almeida Bosque, in Marti News:

    A significant part of the $2 billion that the [Colombian narco-terrorist] FARC has obtained from conducting “nomological and nomothetic” operations, such as kidnapping and narcotics trafficking, is today in a safe place and reporting excellent earnings. It has been laundered, rinsed and well ironed in the purchase of modern equipment and sophisticated instruments that provide humanitarian services in hospitals like CIMEQ [for Castro’s elite and foreign dignitaries], or the Cira Garcia clinic. It is also invested as part of the Cuban contribution to the joint ventures that our island maintains with industrial conglomerates and large hotel groups based inside and outside Cuba.”

  • Well said, Graham! I think you are right to be irate. Seems to me I read a related post in HT not long ago…something about the US freezing millions of Cuban assets. Here’s a link –

  • Graham,

    How do you know you haven’t met a terrorist in Cuba? It’s not like they go around with name tags.

    The US government issued a press release to explain why Cuba is still on the list. The reasons cited are Cuba’s failure to join international counter-terrorism efforts, and the fact that terrorists from FARC and ETA continue to live in refuge in Cuba. Also, several wanted US criminals and terrorists reside in Cuba, including Joanne Chesimard aka Assata Shakur, wanted for the murder of an American police officer. Cuba also continues to provide material and diplomatic support for the Palestinian terrorist group, PFLP. In 2011, the Italian paper, Corriere della Sera, reported that the Lebanese terrorist group Hezbollah was allowed to open a base in Cuba.

    Historically, Cuba supported a long list of insurgent, revolutionary and terrorist organizations in South and Central America, Africa and the Middle East. Although the Cuba government has claimed they no longer support these groups, they have failed to provide evidence to support such a claim.

    The existence of the FAR is not one of the reasons for Cuba being on the list of state sponsors of terrorism, so your sarcastic comment “So. Freaking. Scary.” is both childish and irrelevant.

    Finally, the recent diplomatic activities between Cuba and the known terrorism sponsoring states of Iran, Sudan and Syria do not help dispel the suspicion that Cuba is still in the business. If Cuba wants off the list, it’s incumbent upon the Cuban government to come clean and co-operate with international counter-terrorism organizations.

  • The powerful, irrefutable arguments presented in this article, cannot be refuted with subterfuges, doubts and venom. There is so much more in these 50 years of stupid, bitter arsenals of crimes against Cuba, that makes the United States allegation of terrorism against Cuba tragic, despicable and self incriminating.

    The city of Guantanamo, 600 miles east of Havana, is the unique place in Cuba to learn the real meaning terror and constant fear of death, which have played out in this community for 110 years. The following are a few recollections of someone who lived outside of Guantanamo Naval Base, whose family provided over 150 years of loyal service to the US Department of Defense since 1942 on this infamous enclave and regretfully, learned early in life, the meaning of the Ugly American.

    Torture and murder on GITMO is not a recent occurrence. Lino Rodriguez, a Cuban employee body was found floating in the bay on 12/17/40. Lorenzo Salomon was arrested, tortured and murdered on 9/54. Manuel Prieto Gonzalez was arrested, accused of being a Cuban agent, tortured and forced to swallow poisonous pills on 1/12/61.

    A pirate boat coming out of GITMO opened fire with 57-mm cannon on Santiago de Cuba oil refinery on 3/13/61, killing sailor Rene Rodriguez. Ruben Lopez Sabariego, a Cuban civil service employee on GITMO was arrested by the Military Intelligence Service on 3/30/61 and his tortured body in a ditch, was turned over to his widow. Former Lt. William A. Szili of the USN told the Philadelphai Bulletin, that Capt Arthur J. Jackson, finished him off with a bullet.

    On 8/23/63 Cuban photographer Berto Belen was wounded on his hand and ear while aboard the schooner Nueva Amalia in Cuban waters in Caimanera. US Marines from inside GITMO shot and killed in their foxhole, Cuban Border Guard Ramon Lopez Pena in 1964, Luis Ramirez Lopez in 1966 and Luis Ramirez Reyes, Antonio Campos and Andres Noel Larduet were wounded in separate incidents.

    Still, the most serious of these terror plots was “Arroyo Blanco” , which called for setting-up at least 4 mortars in a farm adjacent to the Base, in which, Cubans living in the United States, who had been trained, provided Cuban military fatigues, weapons and instructions, should open fire on this enclave and create the legal pretext for the United States to retaliate with all of its might, as it was with the Maine, USS Pueblo, Gulf of Tonkin etc. The effective intervention of the Cuban security forces captured 40 plus conspirators with their plans and weapons.

    And finally, Bio-terrorism is not a recent human plague. It was applied against Cuba in 1971, with the first outbreak of African Swine Fever in the western hemisphere, which caused the country billions of dollars in financial loss and the slaughter of over 700,000 pigs. This was followed by fungus sprayed from a US-AID plane (caught on film) which destroyed potato crops in western Cuba. Tobacco, Citrus and plantain were also targeted. The explosion of the freighter La Coubre, the burning of El Encanto, Aguilera Movie Theater, industries, sugar cane plantations, blowing up of Cubana airliner in mid-air and over 600 well documented attempts against the life of Fidel Castro, speaks of real terrorism, not the US State Department Storytelling.

  • Moses, you should refrain from using the term “Miami mafia” unless you you referring specifically to actual members of the Mafia living in Miami (who are not in fact Cuban).

    If you are referring to the hardliners of the Cuban exile community, call them that. When you adopt the Orwellian language of the Castro regime you contribute to the oppression and division of the Cuban people.

  • Calm down Graham. Your seething disgust of US policy towards Cuba is starting to show. The US is likely overstating the case by including Cuba on the terrorism list. It clearly is based on political expediency as much as hard evidence. Unless US intelligence knows something that the rest of us don’t know, the days of exporting revolutions and training terrorists seem to have passed in Cuba. A country that can’t keep enough feminine pads for women on the shelves is not likely to be paying for terrorist training camps. (Unless you are North Korea) The Castros don’t help themselves when they claim to be BFFs with Syria, Iran and even North Korea. Still, we should not judge Cuba entirely by the company they choose to keep. It is likely that the Miami mafia used a few of the remaining chits they have left to keep Cuba on the list. Obama will likely remove Cuba once they do the right thing by Alan Gross. What does one thing have to do with the other? Nothing and everything. Before you go off all high and mighty about the credibility of the list and moral high ground just keep in mind the Castros have never played it straight with Washington either. It is the nature of the relationship between our two countries.

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