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Wednesday, January 13, 2010

United States Cuba Relations – The Gross Quandary

We learned today from the media the identity of the American subcontractor who was arrested in Cuba last month. Alan P. Gross, age 60, of Potomac, Maryland, currently remains incarcerated in a Cuban prison awaiting the Cuban legal system to determine his fate.
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We are now in a quandary as the arrest of Mr. Gross must get us to take a step back and reassess whether we should be sending individuals who under the guise of “building civil society” is tantamount to interference in the internal affairs of a sovereign government. Maybe when we have normal relations with Cuba, individuals who want to help the people of Cuba will be allowed to do so in a respectful and transparent manner. We all want better days and change for Cuba. But the issue has always been one of how we achieve that. Our policies have failed, precious taxpayer dollars continue to be wasted, and people in both countries continue to languish in jail. Are we going to let Mr. Gross sit in a Cuban jail or are we going to negotiate for his freedom? Are we going to keep funding subversion in Cuba or move onto negotiation, reconciliation, and normalization?
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Hopefully from this crisis, perhaps both our government and Cuba will start talking with each other, genuinely engaging in a meaningful dialogue that is badly needed. There is a public context for the resolution of humanitarian-political prisoner issues. When will the negotiations begin in earnest? There are interests who do not want any dialogue whatsoever and the status quo is just fine. But the strategic and national interests of the United States in Latin America require that we must depart from the tired and failed policies we promote and cause individuals like Mr. Gross to be incarcerated. If we want to do anything positive with Cuba, it will only work through influence and respect. If we want to promote internet access in Cuba, we can do that by finally lifting the terror designation on Cuba and allow American business to be conducted with Cuba in more normalcy. Anyone interested in telecommunications in Cuba must educate themselves as to why there is not the proper environment to establish telecommunications in Cuba. Sending contractors into Cuba to establish satellite connections and communications and circumventing their government is only a recipe for trouble, not promoting democracy.
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The backlash from the terror designation of Cuba continues. Hopefully some in our government will recognize that this Terror list designation should be formally reviewed. Recently, when our State Department was questioned about why Cuba is on the list, our spokesman’s best response was Cuba’s support for ETA terrorists in Spain, FARC terrorists in Colombia, and the fact that Cuba still harbors American fugitives from justice. Cuba, on the other hand, provided a detailed public statement that addressed and clarified its views and rationale for its position in this controversy. In the court of public opinion, you review the facts and the evidence and you decide. Ignorance and arrogance continue to guide our policy with Cuba.
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Are we any safer with Cuba on this list?

What public resources must now be dedicated to this flawed position?
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We in the United States allow two individuals who have admitted complicity in the bombing of an airliner in 1976, killing more than 70 passengers and crew, to walk our streets as free men, never held legally accountable for their actions. There is no political justification for this. President Obama and his advisers cannot ignore this. The people who support the embargo do NOT support President Obama or his agenda. The Congress chooses to ignore this because they are bought and paid for with a campaign check from the embargo crowd.
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While the media made reference to Cuba’s response to the terror designation, we post it here below in its entirety for the reader to review and assess for oneself in the context of the other two previously posted documents on the blog.
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Statement from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Cuba
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On Monday, January 4, press reports revealed that, from that day, the United States Transport Security Administration was to implement additional security control measures in every airport in the world, to be applied to all passengers with passports from countries designated by the State Department as "sponsors of international terrorism," among which Cuba is arbitrarily and unjustly included, together with Iran, Syria and Sudan, as well as other countries considered to be "of interest," and which are: Afghanistan, Algeria, Iraq, Lebanon, Libya, Nigeria, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia,Somalia and Yemen. The measure will also be applicable to anyone who makes a stopover in any of these 14 countries.

It was reported that the decision to impose the new measures was adopted after the attempted terrorist attack on an aircraft belonging to U.S. Northwest Airlines, en route to Detroit this past December 25. According to press reports of statements by non-identified U.S. officials, the passengers who fall into these categories are to be body searched, have their hand luggage thoroughly searched, and will be subjected to refined techniques for detecting explosives and image-scanning.

On January 5, after a meeting with members of his national security team, President Barack Obama himself confirmed the adoption the previous day of the aforementioned measures, to be implemented with "passengers who fly to the United States, from or via nations on our list of state sponsors of terrorism or other countries of interest."

That same afternoon, the Cuban Ministry of Foreign Affairs and its Interests Section in Washington presented a note of protest to the United States Interests Section in Havana and to the State Department, respectively. In the note, MINREX categorically rejects this latest hostile action by the United States government, which stems from the unjustified inclusion of Cuba on the so-called list of state sponsors of terrorism for purely political reasons, which have as their sole purpose justification of the blockade policy, overwhelmingly condemned by the international community.

Likewise, the note contests the elaboration of these lists and emphasizes the facts that attest to Cuba´s impeccable record in terms of confronting terrorism, to which it has historically been a victim; it reiterates that the arguments used by the U.S. government to justify the inclusion of our country on its list of "state sponsors of international terrorism are totally unfounded," and demands the immediate removal of Cuba from this arbitrary list.

That same day, a State Department spokesman, asked by the AFP news agency about the MINREX protest note, stated: "Cuba is a country that supports terrorist activities and therefore its citizens and travelers in air transit should be subjected to supplementary controls for security reasons."

Based on the enactment of this new measure, columnists with major U.S. media outlets, such as The Washington Post, have described as "ridiculous"and "undeserved" the designation of Cuba as a "terrorist state," noting that our country does not pose a threat to the security of the United States and affirming that looking for terrorists on flights from Cuba is "a waste of time."

Once again, on January 5, 2010, State Department spokesman Philip Crowley stated that Cuba´s designation as a "state sponsor of terrorism" was "well-earned. " The following day, January 6, another spokesman reiterated to the AFP agency the stale pretexts that supposedly justify maintaining Cuba on that terrorist list.
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As part of its policy of hostility and its propaganda campaigns to discredit the image of the Revolution, in 1982, the Ronald Reagan government unjustly incorporated Cuba onto the State Department´s annual list of "state sponsors of international terrorism," long before the attacks on the Twin Towers in New York.
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Cuba´s inclusion on that list brought with it the implementation of new economic sanctions, including the freezing of financial transactions, a ban on technology transfer, and measures of restriction and isolation against the country and its citizens. These sanctions came in addition to the already-draconian measures imposed by the economic, commercial and financial blockaded decreed since the early days of the Revolution.
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Every year, the U.S. government has maintained Cuba on that list, using diverse pretexts to do so, all of them unsustainable and without the power to present the slightest evidence of our country´s participation in any terrorist act whatsoever.
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On April 30, 2009, the Obama administration ratified the absurd presence of Cuba on this list, reiterating that "the Cuban government continues to provide safe harbor for various terrorists;" that "members of the ETA, the FARC, and the ELN remained in Cuba in 2008;" and that "it continues to allow U.S. fugitives to live legally in Cuba," which was vigorously rejected by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and which prompted a Reflection from Fidel, calling on the United States to discuss the issue.
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In the past, Cuba has made public sufficient elements to demonstrate the falsity and manipulative nature of these pretexts, as exhaustively reflected in the statement from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs titled, "Cuba has nothing to hide and nothing to be ashamed of," issued on May 2, 2003.
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The presence, not negotiated by Cuba, of various members of the Basque organization ETA who were exiled, originate from a request by the governments concerned in the matter, with which an agreement was reached more than a quarter of a century ago, and via which a small group of members of that organization traveled to Cuba. Cuba established the strict rule that any member of the group who left the country would not be allowed to reenter Cuban territory.
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ETA members resident in Cuba have never utilized our territory for that organization´s activities against Spain or against any other country. Cuba has scrupulously complied with the spirit of that agreement. The issue of the presence of ETA members in Cuba is a bilateral matter, regarding which contact has been maintained with the Spanish government. The U.S. government does not have the right or authority to meddle in these affairs, in which it has absolutely no involvement, and which much less affect its national security, or the security of any other state.
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With respect to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the National Liberation Army (ELN) of Colombia, as it is known, both the Colombian government and these guerrilla forces agreed to ask Cuba, at a given time, to participate in the peace process. Within that framework, Cuba has been part of a group of countries facilitating dialogue and of a group of friendly countries for peace conventions, and has served as the host of several rounds of negotiations.

That transparent position and the Cuban government´s help in relation to the peace process have been recognized publicly, not only by the FARC and the ELN, but also by the UN and the Colombian government itself. With respect to the presence in Cuba of fugitives of justice from the United States, it is worth reiterating that no terrorists from any country have ever found refuge in our territory, nor do they reside here. Cuba has legitimately offered protection and political asylum to certain U.S. fighters for civil rights.
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There are also other U.S. citizens resident in Cuba who committed crimes, above all the hijacking of planes, who were tried and severely sentenced, and who, after serving their sentences, requested to remain in the country. It was the Cuban government which adopted the pertinent measures that put a definitive stop, under the Carter government, to plane hijackings, a scourge that originated in the United States itself.
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On the contrary, it has been the United States government that has received in its territory, since the triumph of the Revolution, hundreds of criminals, murderers and terrorists, ignoring the formal applications for their return presented by the Cuban government in each case, under extradition agreements which existed at that time. Many of these individuals continue to freely and tranquilly walk the streets of that country, even after having been implicated in additional acts of terrorism against the citizens and interests of the United States, Cuba and other nations. The most notorious and atrocious case is the sabotage of a Cubana de Aviación passenger plane on October 6, 1976, which caused 73 deaths and was the first terrorist act against a civilian aircraft in mid-flight in the Western Hemisphere. The masterminds of that bombing, Orlando Bosch Avila and Luis Posada Carriles, have lived and continue to reside with impunity in Miami; the first, thanks to a presidential pardon from George H. Bush, and the second, as he awaits a prolonged trial for lying and obstructing justice in an immigration process, and not on the charges of international terrorism that he deserves.
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Some of these truths had to have been known to those who drafted the State Department reports designating Cuba as a "state sponsor of terrorism."
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Cuba rejects as illegitimate the mechanism via which the United States governments grants itself the right to certify the conduct of other nations in terms of terrorism and to issue discriminatory and selective lists for political purposes, while assuming a two-faced position by not judging and leaving at liberty the self-admitted perpetrators of horrendous acts of terrorism against Cuba.
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As one example of that, our five national heroes, Gerardo, Fernando, Ramón,Antonio and René, are serving arbitrary and unjust sentences in U.S. prisons for protecting Cuba, which has lost 3,478 of its sons and daughters to terrorist actions, while 2,099 were left mutilated; and also for defending the integrity of citizens of the United States and other countries.
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Cuba has always had an exemplary record in combating terrorism:
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- Cuba condemns all acts of terrorism, in every form and manifestation.
- Cuban territory has never been utilized nor will it ever be utilized for organizing, financing, or executing terrorist acts against any country,including the United States.
- Cuba is a party state to the 13 existing international conventions on terrorism, and it strictly complies with obligations stemming from Resolutions 1267, 1373 and 1540 of the United Nations Security Council on this matter.
- Cuba does not possess, nor does it have any intention of possessing, weaponsof mass destruction of any type, and it fulfills its obligations in virtue ofthe international instruments that it has signed in terms of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons.
- On December 20, 2001, the National Assembly of People´s Power of the Republic of Cuba passed Law 93, "Against acts of terrorism," which categorized all acts of international terrorism as serious crimes and established severe penalties. - Moreover, Cuba has adopted measures for preventing and repressing all acts of terrorism and all activities related to them, including the financing of terrorism. Likewise, it has increased vigilance of its borders, and has promoted measures to prevent weapons trafficking and to intensify legal cooperation with other countries, for which it has signed 35 agreements for legal assistance, and has reiterated repeatedly its constant disposition to cooperate with all states in this area.
- In this spirit, Cuba has cooperated - including actively with the United States government. On three occasions (November 2001, December 2001 and March 2002), Cuba proposed to U.S. authorities a draft bilateral cooperation program for combating terrorism, and in July 2009, Cuba reiterated its disposition to cooperate in this area. On several occasions, Cuban authorities have made known to the U.S. government their disposition to exchange information on plans for terrorist attacks and actions against objectives in either of the countries. It is likewise known that in 1984, Cuba alerted [the U.S.] to a planned attack against President Ronald Reagan that led to the neutralization of those involved by the U.S. authorities. In 1998, information was passed on to the William Clinton administration regarding plans to set off bombs on the airplanes of Cuban or other national airlines flying to Cuba.
- Likewise, Cuban authorities have given the U.S. government abundant information on terrorist acts committed against Cuba. In 1997, 1998, 2005 and 2006, Cuba gave the FBI copious evidence regarding the bombing of several Cuban tourist facilities, even giving it access to the perpetrators of those events, detained in Cuba, and to witnesses.
- It should not be forgotten, moreover, that Cuba was one of the first countries to publicly condemn the criminal terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 in the United States; transmitted its willingness to provide medical and humanitarian assistance to the victims, and immediately offered to open up its airspace and airports to receive passenger planes en route to U.S. territory. Despite the many terrorist attacks launched against Cuba from U.S. territory,our country has maintained impeccable, spotless conduct with respect to any event that could affect U.S. citizens, because Cuba is a country governed by political principles and ethical standards.
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The Cuban government, with all of its moral authority and dignity, condemns the inclusion of Cuba on the list of 14 countries whose citizens will be subjected to the new restrictive measures by decision of the United States government.
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The Cuban government also demands Cuba´s immediate exclusion from the list of "state sponsors of international terrorism," because it constitutes an unjust, arbitrary and politically motivated designation in contradiction with the exemplary conduct of our country in confronting terrorism, and calls into question the seriousness of the United States in its fight against that scourge.
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Likewise, it urges the United States government to act, as an expression of its commitment to the anti-terrorist fight, with firmness and without double standards against those who, from U.S. territory, have perpetrated terrorist acts against Cuba; and to release our five heroes, the anti-terrorist Cubans unjustly imprisoned in that country.
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Havana, January 7, 2010
Ministry of Foreign Affairs

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