In 1984, Cuba alerted the United States authorities about an assassination attempt on the then president of that country, Ronald Reagan. And an attack was prevented from taking place. They say that Reagan thanked him, but two years earlier, the US president himself had included the island in the List of States Sponsoring Terrorism, for the first time since its creation in 1979. Havana alerted Washington about a terrorist act, but continued being on the black list for 33 years and four presidents.
The government of William Clinton learned, in 1998, that there were plans to explode bombs on planes of Cuban airlines or third countries that were destined for Cuba and in which US citizens were also traveling.
In 2001, Fidel Castro condemned the terrorist attacks of September 11 in the United States and expressed to the government of President George W. Bush the island’s willingness to provide medical and humanitarian assistance to the victims. Cuba’s international airports were opened to receive passenger planes bound for the United States, which could not land in that country due to the chaos generated after the attacks.
However, in the midst of this context, Cuba did not cease to be, at the whims of the State Department, a country “sponsor of terrorism.” Life, like the policy that is dictated from Washington against an island in the Caribbean, is full of paradoxes.
“Although the blockade is now six decades old, the United States has used multiple pretexts to justify a policy that morally, legally and vis-à-vis International Law, has no basis. Among these pretexts and falsehoods, terrorism has been one of the most scandalous and damaging, ”says Johana Tablada, deputy director general of the United States at the Cuban Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MINREX).
In the context of the thaw between Havana and Washington during the Barack Obama administration, the island was removed from the list on May 29, 2015, in which it was included again in January 2021, a few days after Donald Trump left. the White House. One of the last obstacles – as if they were few – that the president put in the way of relations between the two countries. A total of 243 measures against Cuba to torpedo bilateral ties, 55 of which he imposed in times of pandemic.
An “openly politicized” measure, said Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy, who supports a rapprochement between the two nations. “Local terrorism in the United States is a much greater threat to Americans,” he added, and it must not have fallen very well in the circles of power in that country.
In order to learn about the consequences and effects that being included in this list implies for Cuba, Cubadebate spoke at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs with Johana Tablada, deputy director general of the United States in the Cuban Foreign Ministry.
“The government and the people of Cuba do not recognize any moral authority to the government of the United States to draw up arbitrary, discriminatory lists, and in which the behavior of other States is evaluated and rated. These are functions assumed by multilateral organizations on the basis of International Law. Therefore, we are talking about unilateral mechanisms accompanied by coercive measures. Our country is a signatory to the 19 international conventions related to the fight against terrorism, and condemns this scourge, of which it has been a victim, in all its forms and manifestations. Cuban territory has never been allowed to be used to organize terrorist actions against any other country. Cuba has not participated in any financing of this type of action and has collaborated with the United States. Thus, we have a record of bilateral cooperation that includes the return of terrorists, even in recent years. Here, people who have fled the United States, such as hijackers, have been prosecuted and served sentences, ” the diplomat highlights.
Along with other issues of Trump’s aggressive policy towards the island, the decision to include Cuba on the list of states sponsors of terrorism is also subject to review by the current administration of Joe Biden. However, five months after the Democrat took office, nothing has changed regarding relations between the two countries.
– What are the effects on Cuba being included in this list of countries that supposedly sponsor terrorism?
“The consequences have to do with the restriction of exports, the elimination of certain commercial benefits and the obtaining of credits in international financial institutions, as well as the prohibition of arms exports and the limitations on the granting of economic aid. In addition, the fact that we are again on this list allows US entities to open legal proceedings against Cuba under the anti-terrorism laws of the United States.
“As soon as on January 22, it is registered in the Federal Register that Cuba has entered the list of States sponsoring terrorism, many banks in the world closed their operations with Cuban entities, out of fear, panic, sometimes out of fear or because they receive an intimidating email from the Department of State or the Treasury when a transfer is discovered.
“In Cuba’s foreign service, for example, more than 30 banks since January have closed their operations with the island and with our foreign missions. This has affected Cuban medical missions and colleagues who are abroad and have not been able to receive their salaries and transfer consular income to the country.
“Another example, the most painful, has to do with health. By depriving a country of its income and reducing its purchasing power, this makes it difficult to acquire supplies to manufacture medicines in Cuba. Today the lack of antibiotics in the country, of commonly used drugs, including hospital ones, is no secret to anyone, and we have reached that situation, not counting the vaccination program. There is a war against Cuban suppliers at the moment and all that has had to do with the inclusion of our country in the list and with Trump’s 243 measures.”
– The inclusion in the list affects several sectors, Johana, but is there any that is even more affected by the measure?
“If I had to highlight a sector in which the inclusion of Cuba in the list of terrorist countries has had greater weight, that sector is the banking-financial and commercial sector because it is practically controlled by the US banks. This has and will have a very high cost, that is why it is the sustained denunciation of Cuba. We are not going to stop demanding that this measure be rectified ”.
“Including us on that list also raises the country risk. Anyone does a search and says “oh, a terrorist country, I can face sanctions and be fined.” And, although there will always be someone who sells something, all that ends up tripling the costs for the Island.
“No country, much less Cuba, should be treated that way because it becomes a major obstacle for the most important things and for the simplest and everyday things. What in any place is an elementary and common transaction, for Cuba becomes an operation that can last many days”.
– What implications would it have for Cuba to leave the list of countries that sponsor terrorism?
“That would be one of the most logical and essential measures if someone wants to send a signal that he intends to improve relations and undo part of the damage and the lie with which politics has been conducted.”
“Cuba is a country that has been a serious and professional counterpart in the fight against drug trafficking, terrorism, money laundering, in the fight against human trafficking and migrant smuggling. If you suddenly put us on that list, then you send the wrong signal. Terrorists, drug dealers will be very happy when you play with things like that. While you entertain yourself in presenting a country that is not a terrorist, it sends a signal of weakness and lack of seriousness to the people who are really involved in transnational crime ”.
– The fact that Biden was vice president of the Obama administration when he removed Cuba from the list could in any way affect the position of the now president on the issue?
“We don’t really know. One might think so. Now, if you asked me if it would be possible for Trump to include Cuba on the list, I would always have said ‘yes’ to you. If you asked me if it is possible for a Biden president to ratify that decision, I would have said “no.”
“If the United States government wants to remove Cuba from the list, it can do so very easily. Both the Cuban and the American people agree on the aspiration to have a better relationship, and there are many sectors that defend that it is time to let Cuba go its way and stop punishing the Cuban people because the United States does not like their government. As you were telling me, the decision to include us on a unilateral list like this one speaks more badly of the United States than of Cuba. The countries that know and have relations with the Island know that we are not a terrorist country ”.
According to data from the Cuban Ministry of Foreign Affairs, terrorist acts committed by the United States government or perpetrated from that country have caused 3,478 fatalities and 2,099 people with disabilities on the island. And behind each number are families who suffer.