By Javier Herrera
HAVANA TIMES – It’s recently emerged that Colombian president, Gustavo Petro, unofficially asked the US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, to take Cuba off the country’s list of state sponsors of terrorism.
To give you a little context, we need to point out that Cuba returned to the despicable list after peace discussions on the island, where Cuba acted as a guarantor and host for talks between the rebel and communist National Liberation Army (ELN) and the Colombian Government came to an end.
On January 17, 2019, in the middle of peace conversations, the ELN exploded a car bomb against the training school facility for police officers in Bogota, leaving a casualty of 23 fatalities and over 100 people injured.
As a result of these events, the Colombian president at the time, Ivan Duque, put an end to the peace talks and put out a warrant for the arrest of guerrilla leaders, asking Cuba for their extradition. Cuba refused to extradite guerrilla commanders arguing that this hadn’t been considered in pre-conversation agreements and granted them asylum and protection instead, which was then used to put Cuba on the state sponsors of terrorism list.
In an unprecedented move, the Cuban Government informed – via its ambassador in Bogota, Jose Luis Ponce-, the Colombian Government about possible threats of attack in Bogota, organized by the terrorist group. After Cuba provided this information, the ELN issued a statement that denied responsibility and the organization of these attacks, but exonerated its leaders protected in Cuba saying that they are there to protect the peace, not to plan combat actions or attacks. Meanwhile, the Colombian Government has taken advantage of the situation to repeat its request for extradition, which Cuba has once again denied.
Once Gustavo Petro came into power, a former guerrilla and an old friend of the Cuban regime, the Colombian Government has tried to influence the withdrawal of Cuba from this list. Thus, Petro now joins many Colombian congress members who have sent a letter to US vice-president, Kamala Harris, president of the US House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, and president of the United Nations General Assembly, Csaba Kőrösi, asking Cuba to be withdrawn from the state sponsors of terrorism list.
If anyone wanted to do a moderately serious analysis of Cuba’s position when it comes to terrorism, we just need to go back to how the current regime came into power, as well as its international relations.
The Cuban Government came into power in 1959, after a bloody civil war, led by an illegitimate government and a rural guerilla group, with representation in the cities that used terrorist tactics to wreak havoc and destabilize the government.
After the guerrilla forces won and came into power, as early as 1959, Cuba’s military expeditions began.
While Cuba only recognizes its military involvement on five occasions: Algeria, Syria, Congo, Angola and Ethiopia, Cuban troops have been documented fighting on at least 11 occasions in different parts of the world. Standing out is the failed expedition to Panama with the objective of sparking a revolutionary movement in 1959; the failed expedition to the Dominican Republic to overthrow Rafael Leonidas Trujillo’s dictatorship, in alliance with the Dominican exile community; and in 1963 and 1967, failed expeditions of Cuban military to take power in Venezuela and instate a government friendly for Cuba and guarantee the island’s oil supply.
We can add to Cuba’s military adventures, the creation, training, logistical support, and even military leadership of guerrilla forces around the world, with a special focus on Latin America.
In terms of Cuba’s relationship with Latin America, it’s important to point out that Cuba promoted rural and urban guerrilla forces in places like Chile, Argentina, Colombia, Uruguay, Brazil, and in other places on different occasions.
Everybody knows about Ernesto “Che” Guevara’s guerrilla adventures in Bolivia, after failing in his attempt to lead an insurrection in Peru. It’s also a well-known fact that Cuba recruited and trained the guerrilla force created by journalist Jorge Ricardo Masetti in north-eastern Argentina.
It’s also publicly known that dozens of terrorists from different organizations have sought safe refuge in Havana over the past 60 years, including:
-JoAnne Deborah Chesimard (Assata Shakur) who is the only woman on the FBI’s most wanted fugitives list.
– Charlie Hill, a Vietnam veteran, Hill is wanted for the murder of a policeman in New Mexico and hijacking a TWA plane.
– Joseba Sarrionandia, a Basque writer and former member of terrorist organization ETA, who broke out of jail 31 years ago, his whereabouts unknown, but he has said he’s been living “a normal life” in Havana for years. He returned to Spain in 2021.
If the evidence provided above doesn’t seem enough to prove Cuba’s involvement in international terrorist plots, then you also have the island’s involvement in subversive actions in Chile, Bolivia, and Colombia in recent years, where Cuban diplomatic personnel have even been caught with large sums of cash amidst violent protests.
But if there’s even a shred of doubt that the Cuban Government belongs on the list of state sponsors of terrorism, you just have to look at the current Government’s unconditional support for the Russian invasion of the sovereign republic of Ukraine.
Lastly, I’d like to say that Cuba hasn’t restricted its terrorist efforts to foreign lands. Cuban citizens are also a target of the ruling regime’s terrorist attacks.
Over the past two years, civil protests have broken out across the whole country as a result of the widespread crisis that ordinary Cubans have been suffering. Protests have been brutally repressed by a government that doesn’t have the financial means to buy ambulances or medicine but does have the means to build hotels and buy the latest riot gear.
Protesters have been persecuted by intelligence corps, arrested, beaten, infected with deadly diseases such as the case of Ariel Ruiz Urquiola who was infected with HIV. After being tortured physically and psychologically, protesters caught have been charged with long sentences in rigged trials.
Anti-government journalists are regularly threatened, beaten, locked up, had their basic human rights violated and even been forced into exile. Any dissident voice is persecuted and silenced in the worst of ways.
The abovementioned conditions have sent the Cuban people off in masses through the Central American jungle and in rafts crossing the dangerous Florida Strait. This exodus has been profitable for the Cuban Government as they’ve hiked up prices of plane tickets and accommodation and even created a network of human traffickers who facilitate the journey to the US.
After analyzing the above, I would like the Colombian president, or someone who defends his points of view, to tell me whether they really believe Cuba should be removed from the US’ State Sponsor of Terrorism list. I would like to know whether his request comes from being aware and having civil spirit or whether it comes from his love relationship with the Left and if the Cuban Government has asked him to do this. Does Gustavo Petro really regret his terrorist and guerrilla past? Or has he just chosen to follow his Leftist terrorist activism under the guise of politics?
Every one of the arguments in this article might and will be analyzed in-depth in future articles, with evidence and witness accounts. Until then, look at the facts yourself, seek out information and make up your own mind about whether Cuba should remain on the list or be removed from it.