HAVANA TIMES — For yet another consecutive year, the United States has decided to keep Cuba in the State Department’s annual State Sponsors of Terrorism list, in spite of ever more frequent calls to remove the country from this black list, where it has figured since 1982, DPA reported.
According to the annual Country Reports on Terrorism presented Thursday, one of the reasons for keeping Cuba one more year on the black list, which again includes Iran, Sudan and Syria, is the continued presence, in Cuban territory, of members of the Basque terrorist organization ETA.
The report notes, however, that the Cuban government appears to be “distancing” itself from the organization.
“Reports suggested that the Cuban government was trying to distance itself from ETA members living on the island by employing tactics such as not providing services including travel documents to some of them,” the report states.
It adds, however, that “Cuba’s government continued to provide some twenty ETA members safe haven.”
In this connection, the report justifies its decision with reference to the fact that, in recent years, Cuba had offered safe haven or passage to members of Colombia’s Revolutionary Armed Forces (FARC).
That said, the State Department’s report acknowledges, as another aside, that, since last year, the Cuban government has hosted talks between the Colombian government and the FARC guerrilla in search of a peaceful settlement to the conflict.
“There was no indication that the Cuban government provided weapons or paramilitary training for either ETA or the FARC,” the report also acknowledges.
In addition to the humiliation of being singled out as a country that sponsors terrorism, inclusion in this report has concrete repercussions for a nation: once on the list, a country is barred from accessing funding provided by organizations such as the World Bank and faces restrictions in the export and sale of weapons, among other things.
In recent months, in view of its contribution to the peace negotiations between the FARC and Colombia’s government, much speculation had surrounded the possibility that Cuba would, at last, be removed from the list.
What’s more, the new Secretary of State, John Kerry, had spoken in favor of removing Cuba from the list, in the interests of improving relations with the island.
However, as early as the beginning of the month, when the report presented today was about to be published, diplomatic sources had already informed a number of US media that Cuba would once again be blacklisted.
Nevertheless, The Miami Herald added, quoting anonymous official sources, “at any point in the future”, the US government may decide that Cuba ought to be removed from the list.
This is something the president, in this case Democrat Barack Obama, can do, sending Congress a report “certifying that there has been a fundamental change in the leadership and policies of the government and that the government is not supporting acts of international terrorism and is providing assurances that it will not support such acts in the future.”
Another way, the newspaper explained, quoting an official congressional study, is to provide Congress with a report “certifying that the government has not provided any support for international terrorism during the preceding six months, and has provided assurances that it will not support such acts in the future.”
To do this, according to the study, Obama would need to send out such a communiqué at least 45 days before decreeing the removal of the country from the list.
For the time being, there are no clear indications that the Obama administration is going to take this step in the near future.
Among the reasons used by the report to justify Cuba’s inclusion in the list, the State Department refers to the fact that the Cuban government “continued to permit fugitives wanted in the United States to reside in Cuba and also provided support such as housing, food ration books, and medical care for these individuals.”
An exception, in this connection, was Raul Castro’s decision, in April, to immediately repatriate a US couple accused of kidnapping their children and of fleeing to Cuba aboard a ship. This incident, however, took place in 2013 and is not included in the recently presented report, which covers last year only.
Cuba has consistently opposed its inclusion in the list, a fact that, last year it chalked up to “petty political ends.”