Wilfredo Cancio Isla (Café Fuerte)
HAVANA TIMES — The United States has included Cuba in its list of countries that sponsor terrorism for the thirty-second consecutive year, leaving intact the policy of isolation that has characterized the two countries’ bilateral relations for fifty years.
The US Department of State published on Wednesday its Annual Terrorism Report, which places Cuba alongside Iran, Sudan and Syria.
The document used to designate Cuba is merely three paragraphs long and repeats claims drawn from reports published in previous years, while the reports on the other three nations accused of sponsoring terrorism are detailed and long, with comments on recent incidents.
The arguments used to accuse Raul Castro’s government of terrorism are grounded in two basic points:
The fact Cuba offered safe haven to Patria Vasca y Libertad (ETA) and Colombian Armed Revolutionary Forces (FARC) members for a very long time and continues to allow fugitives from US justice to reside on the island, offering them homes, ration booklets and medical attention.
There is, however, no mention whatsoever of the incident involving the North Korean vessel Chong Chon Gang, captured in Panama carrying a cargo of Cuban weapons in July of last year, an incident which prompted a special UN report that compromised Raul Castro’s government.
The US government report acknowledges that Cuba has tried to distance itself from ETA and mentions that at least eight of some 20 members of that organization were repatriated in cooperation with the Spanish government.
The Department of State report indicates that ETA currently has as little as a hundred members but that the organization cannot be said to have been completely dismantled. Washington also points out that there are ETA militants secretly living in Venezuela.
The chapter devoted to Cuba also acknowledged as a positive development that Havana has hosted the peace talks between the FARC and Colombian government, in coordination with representatives from Venezuela, Norway and the Red Cross.
In contrast to the 2011 and 2012 documents, this year’s report made no mention of “strategic deficiencies” in Cuba’s banking control mechanisms and of Cuba’s previous refusal to directly collaborate with the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) in the struggle against money laundering and financial transactions in support of international terrorism.
The removal of these comments seems to respond to the fact Raul Castro’s government issued an anti-terrorist law at the close of last year to “support the committed global struggle against money laundering, the financing of terrorism, the proliferation of weapons and the movement of ill-gotten capitals.”
Decree Law 317 of the Council State came into effect on January 23 this year. It regulates the operations and structures of Cuba’s Bureau of Financial Investigations (DGIOF), tasked with enforcing compliance with the principles and strategies aimed at preventing the use of Cuban banks and financial institutions “as a means for legitimating assets secured through illicit activities.”