US designates Cuba sponsor of terrorism

THE US government has designated Cuba as a sponsor of terrorism.

US secretary of state Mike Pompeo has accused Havana of repeatedly providing support for acts of international terrorism in granting safe harbour to terrorists.

He said the Donald Trump administration has been focused from the start on denying the Castro regime the resources it allegedly uses to oppress its people at home, and countering its malign interference in Venezuela and the rest of the Western Hemisphere.

Pompeo said with “this action we will once again hold Cuba’s government accountable and send a clear message [that] the Castro regime must end its support for international terrorism and subversion of US justice”.

He claimed that for decades, the Cuban government has fed, housed, and provided medical care for murderers, bomb makers, and hijackers, while many Cubans go hungry, homeless, and without basic medicine.

Pompeo noted that members of the National Liberation Army (ELN), a US-designated foreign terrorist organisation, traveled to Havana to conduct peace talks with the Colombian government in 2017.

However, he charged that citing peace negotiation protocols, Cuba has refused Colombia’s requests to extradite 10 ELN leaders living in Havana after the group claimed responsibility for the January 2019 bombing of a Bogota police academy that killed 22 people and injured more than 87 others.

He said Cuba also harbours several US fugitives from justice who are wanted on or convicted of charges of political violence, many of whom have resided in Cuba for decades.

Pompeo said the Cuban government has refused to return Joanne Chesimard who is on the FBI’s most wanted terrorists list for executing New Jersey State trooper Werner Foerster in 1973.

Others are Ishmael LaBeet convicted of killing eight people in the US Virgin Islands in 1972; Charles Lee Hill, charged with killing New Mexico state policeman Robert Rosenbloom in 1971; and others.

Pompeo said Cuba returns to the SST list following its broken commitment to stop supporting terrorism as a condition of its removal by the previous administration in 2015.

On May 13, 2020, the State Department notified Congress that it had certified Cuba under the Arms Export Control Act as “not cooperating fully” with US counterterrorism efforts in 2019.

Pompeo said in addition to the support for international terrorism, Cuba engages in a range of malign behaviour across the region.

He claimed that the Cuban intelligence and security apparatus had infiltrated Venezuela’s security and military forces, assisting President Nicolas Maduro to maintain his stranglehold over his people while allowing terrorist organisations to operate.

He charged that Cuba’s support for FARC dissidents and the ELN continues beyond the country’s borders.

He said Cuba’s support for President Maduro has created a permissive environment for international terrorists to live and thrive within Venezuela.

“Today’s designation subjects Cuba to sanctions that penalise persons and countries engaging in certain trade with Cuba, restricts US foreign assistance, bans defence exports and sales, and imposes certain controls on exports of dual use items,” said Pompeo. “The United States will continue to support the Cuban people in their desire for a democratic government and respect for human rights, including freedom of religion, expression, and association. Until these rights and freedoms are respected, we will continue to hold the regime accountable.”

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