United States Cuba Policy & Business Blog

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

United States Cuba Relations – Terror Designation Delusions

Eugene Robinson wrote an excellent Washington Post op-ed piece January 5th that I recommend everyone should read. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/01/04/AR2010010402723.html?hpid=opinionsbox1
How Cuba remains on that list of State Sponsors of Terror befuddles all commonsense and belies our hypocritical posture towards the island. I won’t repeat Robinson’s excellent list and rationale on just how Cuba does not measure up to be on such a list. It’s all about politics and not protecting the security interests of our country. Let’s remember that more than two million foreigners visit Cuba annually and most want to keep coming back to visit. There are no suicide bombings or dangerous threats to the personal security of visitors. When we were attacked on 9/11, Cuba was among the first of nations to offer medical assistance and opened its airspace to our planes as needed when all flights were halted. An American is in greater risk being in other parts of Latin America and the world than he/she would be in Cuba. An American can stand in the streets of Havana and say “I’m from America” and the Cuban reaction would likely be to invite that American for a cafecito and share a story about baseball or relatives that Cuban has in the states. Try saying “I am an American” in some other countries around the world and see what might happen to you in those countries that are correctly on that list.
We have political problems with Cuba, but terrorist problems? The State Sponsor of Terror designation is more about hobbling any efforts to lift the travel restrictions and improve relations. It was thrown in the faces of the pro-travel majority at the Nov 18th congressional hearing – why would we allow Americans visit a country that is on the terror list? Funny, we have no travel restrictions to other countries on that list. One congressman at the hearing who knows as much about Cuba as the campaign check he receives from the pro-embargo forces blurted how maybe we should restrict Americans’ right to travel to other nations! Maybe that congressman should take a look at the Cuban American who was involved in the bombing of an airplane two decades ago and walks the streets of his state freely, never held accountable for the deaths of the innocents that man was complicit in.
This nefarious designation is at the root of why it costs over USD $1.00 per minute to call the island and why President Obama’s overture to allow telecom services to Cuba will likely fail. I keep reminding my friends in the telecom community that all is for naught until this gets changed. Being on that list triggers the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act, depriving nations on that list of sovereign immunity in U.S. courts. It created the cottage industry of suing Cuba in U.S. courts by private litigants, particularly in south Florida. Since Cuba does not submit to the jurisdiction of our courts in these cases as we do not have normal relations; default multimillion dollar judgments and news headlines are the payoffs for the lawyers and the plaintiffs. Any Cuban asset or interest in the U.S. could be seized or attached by private parties as long as there is no sovereign immunity. So why would Cuba allow a U.S. telecom company to do business with it if Cuba has no assurance that it will get paid? Meanwhile who suffers – anyone who wants to call Cuba to talk with their families or friends. This is another cruelty from our poor relations.
As long as we have poor relations with Cuba, we are effectively opening the door to our adversaries. It is in the strategic interests of our country to have normal relations with Cuba. As long as we deprive Cuba of socioeconomic engagement, Cuba will seek it elsewhere. Why do you think our adversaries are gaining a foothold on our doorstep in the Western hemisphere? That Cuba has a government we do not agree with or like how it treats its own citizens, our embargo and preventing U.S. citizens from freely visiting Cuba has not accomplished anything to change our island neighbor. Keeping Cuba on this list is simply an obstacle and not any real protection from our true enemy, Al Qaeda, and its weapon, terrorism. That is who we are at war with, not Cuba.
Finally, we share with you two documents that focused on this contentious terror designation several years ago, but whose relevance today is front and center with the recent news:

The Center for International Policy Report, November 2004, Cuba Should Not Be On The Terrorist List
Cuba and the State Sponsors of Terrorism List – Congressional Research Service Report May 13, 2005



Anonymous said...

One thing I grew up with regarding fellow human beings is the label
"phony!" It's someone who I later
realized wasn't who I really thought they were and my expectations quickly extinguished. It is with deep regret and sadness that the present Obama administration fits that definition. I am making plans to get away for a few weeks and Cuba is where I want to travel. I am a US citizen and cannot. I'm not about to go illegally. This is such an infringement on my right to visit anywhere I deem fit. Cuba, a terrorist state? There should be hundreds of thousands comments here but we, in this great country of ours, have all but given up our rights! We are subjected to politics that is disgraceful and for Obama to continue an affront to the term "change!"