The U.S. considers returning Cuba to list of state sponsors of terrorism

US considers listing Cuba As a state sponsor of terrorism
A security guard stands next to the U.S. Embassy in Havana, Cuba, March 11, 2019. Picture taken Marc...

The United States is contemplating returning Cuba to the list of state sponsors of terrorism, according to a senior official of Trump’s administration on Thursday. This development represents another significant blow to extremely strained ties between Washington and Havana.

There’s a “compelling argument” that Cuba should be partially put back on the U.S. blacklist. This is due to its continued support for Venezuelan socialist President Nicolas Maduro. And also the shelter it provides to members of the ELN rebel group in Colombia, the official said.

Speaking on the grounds of confidentiality, the official won’t rule out whether a vote on Cuba’s re-listing may take effect before the end of the year.

For what may have been the first move, the Trump administration announced on Wednesday. It placed the Communist-ruled island up on a separate list of countries that do not completely comply with its counter-terrorism efforts.

Havana that had long dismissed any relation to terrorism refuted the State Department statement on Wednesday as “spurious.”

Bringing back Cuba to the blacklist will be another rollback of the detente initiated by former President Barack Obama between old Cold War enemies.

His decision in 2015 to officially delete Cuba from the terror list was a major step. It served as a move directed to restoring diplomatic relations that year.

Trump’s hardened position on Cuba, and also Venezuela, had gone well in the sizable Cuban-American community in South Florida. A strong voting community in a vital political state, as he seeks re-election in November.

The declaration as a state sponsor of terrorism will put potential sanctions and trade restrictions on Cuba. This leaves the country in the same group as Iran, North Korea, Syria, and Sudan.

The role of Cuba in Venezuela

Any move to place Cuba back on the list would take into account Havana’s support for Maduro. Besides, many European countries deemed his re-election in 2018 a hoax.

The American government indicted him and a large part of his close circle in March on allegations of “narco-terrorism, “corruption, conspiracy, and drug trafficking.

The United States and scores of other nations last year recognized opposition chief Juan Guaido as acting president.

However, Maduro, who considers Guaido a U.S. agent, stays in control, supported by the Venezuelan army and Russia, China, Cuba, and Iran.

Moreover, several U.S. officials confirmed that this is becoming a rising concern for Trump.

In fact, there’s contemplation to classify many of the Venezuelan intelligence forces as criminal organizations. This, according to the senior officer of the U.S. government.

Besides, the armed forces loyal to Maduro comprise national security, the military counterintelligence service, and the elite police force.

The debates on whether Cuba should be re-listed focuses heavily on legal concerns required to justify calling a nation a terrorism sponsor, the official said.

The talks are also about Cuba’s refusal to extradite ELN leaders on Colombia’s request. According to the official, this was after the group’s January 2019 attack on a police academy in Bogota that killed 22 people.

The leaders of the National Liberation Army (ELN), Colombia’s largest active guerrilla group, traveled to Havana last year. This was part of peace talks that collapsed after the car bomb attack.

Cuba enjoyed applauds in the past for organizing successful peace negotiations between the Colombian government and the former rebel FARC.

Another reason for Washington’s decision

Another problem likely to be included in Washington’s decision is the accommodation of many U.S. fugitives in Cuba. Also, with many residing on the island for decades.

The re-listing of Cuba will have a powerful symbolic significance for Havana. Especially for the decades of haunting from the U.S.

However, it is not clear how much practical effect there would be.

The classification entails a restriction on U.S. economic support.  A prohibition on U.S. arms exports, restrictions on dual-use goods for military and commercial uses.

Also, conditions for the U.S. is to reject loans to Cuba from foreign financial organizations such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

Although all of these restrictions were in place-or Trump reinforce them and, the decades-old U.S. economic embargo persists, and the only congress can remove them.

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