Cuba and the Terrorism List: A Final Act of Trump-Pompeo Mischief

Unfortunately, the attack on the Capitol by Trump supporters, encouraged by the Inciter-in-Chief, will not be the last act of mischief. Trump insists on causing as much damage as possible to U.S. interests and values on his way out the door. He is not only sabotaging an orderly transition, but persists in obstructing the mandate the American people have given to the incoming administration. 

On Monday, Jan. 11, the Trump administration demonstrated that strategy by adding Cuba, without justification, to the list of state sponsors of terrorism. On Tuesday, Trump celebrated the supposed completion of the wall on the Mexican border.

Who knows what price will be paid by the U.S. for the next irresponsible action taken by Trump and his sycophants?

Few actors in this disaster movie come close to the role played by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. After the election, Pompeo announced that January would mark “a smooth transition to the second Trump administration.” The dream of a coronation turned into a nightmare. On January 20, 2021 Pompeo will leave as one of the last cabinet holdouts simply because he is too shameless to resign. 

After the uprising against Congress, a branch of government in which he himself has served, Pompeo tried to distract from his own lack of courage with a burst of torpedoes against many of the policies announced by the incoming President and Vice-President. Both Joe Biden and Kamala Harris have made it clear that they believe the policies espoused by President Barack Obama during his last years in office show the most appropriate way for a democratic power to act with dignity towards Cuba and other members of the international community.

The “argument” that Cuba’s alignment with the government of Nicolás Maduro in Venezuela makes it a sponsor of terrorism is rather flimsy. The Maduro administration has a seat at the United Nations and in the next few months it is likely to regain recognition by the European Union, which has already described Juan Guaidó as the President of the “outgoing” National Assembly. If the United States wants to draw up a list of Venezuela’s allies, it could start with Russia, China and several more.

Cuba is Condemned for Supporting the Peace Process in Colombia

Pompeo’s second reason for putting Cuba back on the list is that Cuba did not extradite 10 leaders of the ELN (National Liberation Army guerrillas) to Colombia who were in Havana as part of the dialogue between the guerrilla group and the government of Colombia. Norway, a U.S. NATO ally that accompanied Cuba in the peace talks, has reiterated that the security guarantees afforded to the guerrillas were part of the negotiations protocol adopted by the mediators with the consent of the Colombian government. Not only has Cuba not committed or supported any acts of international terrorism according to the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START) database; Cuba contributed to the peace process in Colombia more than any other state.

If—instead of blockading Cuba—the Trump administration had continued President Obama’s policy of engagement, which included Bernard Aronson, former Under Secretary of State for Hemispheric Affairs in the George Bush administration (1989-1993) as the U.S. representative, perhaps the dialogue that Norway facilitated between the Venezuelan government and the opposition parties would have made progress with the support of their allies. 

The same could be said of the dialogue between the ELN and the Colombian government which could have resumed sooner rather than later as the best way to demobilize that guerrilla force and the FARC dissidents who remain armed in Colombian territory. 

The third “reason” Pompeo gave was that Cuba has not extradited some people wanted in the U.S. for acts of terrorism against the U.S. government. One should remember that the extradition treaty signed between Cuba and the United States in 1904 is no longer in force because the U.S. suspended it in 1959 to protect fugitives from the revolution that were primarily associated with the Batista dictatorship. The agreement regulated reciprocal extradition for people who break the law in either country, excluding those involved in non-violent political activity. 

The U.S. Has Given Refuge to Known Terrorists

When Presidents Barack Obama and Raúl Castro decided to move the thorny relationship between the two countries into a more manageable space, they agreed to focus on the future rather than relitigating disputes that originated in the Cold War.

For more than six decades, the U.S. has given political asylum to hundreds of people involved in violence in Cuba or even in the United States itself, some of which  its own Department of Justice has labeled terrorism. Under various U.S. administrations, criminals such as Orlando Bosch and Luis Posada Carriles were not extradited to Cuba, Venezuela or Italy (the home country of one of the victims of one of the attacks attributed to Posada), nor were they put on trial in the United States, as is required by several conventions against terrorism to which the U.S. is a signatory. Bosch and Posada were the masterminds of the placement of a bomb on an Air Cubana flight that killed 73 passengers.

Noteworthy among the people being charged by the United States and living in Cuba  is the case of Assata Shakur, who is accused of involvement in the death of police officer Werner Foerster in New Jersey while she was a member of the Black Liberation Army. All U.S. extradition requests predate Cuba’s removal from the State Department’s list in May of 2015 and the reinstatement of diplomatic relations between Havana and Washington. 

After 2010,  The many reports on the inclusion of Cuba in this list, made no consistent mention of Shakur or any other cases. Prominent members of the Congressional Black Caucus, such as Maxine Waters (D-CA), have sent letters to the Cuban government and U.S. authorities arguing that the Shakur case was a political vendetta that ignored the context of African-American civil rights groups in decades gone by and illegal activities against them through projects such as COINTELPRO.

The decision to move beyond this history of conflict served the interests of both countries. Pompeo’s selective and unilateral relitigation of the American claims is an exercise in hypocrisy  for the sole purpose of making the future a slave of the past.

Acknowledging Progress in the Change of Leadership in Cuba

Pompeo’s irresponsible act provides Biden’s new Secretary of State with an easy way to discount out of hand this attempt to twist the official image of Cuba in the United States. The designation’s potential damage to the policy announced by Biden and Harris toward Cuba is considerable. A wrong diagnosis that views Cuba as a threat to U.S. security detracts from a realistic approach that sees the island as a country in the middle of an important economic and leadership transition, with significant consequences for its future and for a potential new start with the United States. Raúl Castro is retiring as head of the Communist Party and Cuban leadership is being passed to the next generation. What sense does it make to face this new reality with an inaccurate diagnosis?

Financial Profit at the Cost of a Failed Policy

Treating Cuba as a state sponsor of terrorism opens the U.S. courts—particularly those in south Florida—to opportunistic lawsuits. Unscrupulous attorneys will take advantage of the limited sovereign immunity conferred by a country’s appearance on the terrorism list to obtain juicy profits from trials for which Cuba would not be present. These trials could produce multimillion dollar rulings against Cuba, rendering the difficult issue of financial settlements between Cuba and the United States intractable.

One effect of such trials could be to discredit the United States in the eyes of the Cuban people. Although the most recalcitrant sectors of the Communist Party called him a wolf in sheep’s clothing, the first African-American U.S. President left a fresh image of openness to Cuba that transcended the history of conflicts and disagreements. This idea of a change one can believe in contrasts with the imperialist posture of Trump towards Cuba and other issues. The Biden administration should resume cancellation of lawsuits under Title III of the Helms-Burton Act. It should also preclude these offensive caricatures of the rule of law—lawsuits against Cuba with limited immunity—from being justified by the unwarranted “terrorist” label. 

Biden Should Continue Obama’s Policy

From the outset, the Biden team should act decisively as an agent of change—and never as a continuation of Trumpism. The incoming team should return in grand fashion and  deepen the policy announced by Obama in his Presidential Policy Directive of October 2016.

If the Biden administration wants to communicate that it is serious about combatting terrorism and is throwing its hat in with multilateralism, removing Cuba from the list of state sponsors of terrorism is a litmus test. The idea that Cuba is not a top priority  in  Biden’s agenda is an unsustainable pretext. The State Department has enough experts to seriously examine this issue, and to follow procedures to remove Cuba from the list in a relatively short time.  

Incoming Secretary of State Anthony Blinken should not simply fall into the traps that Pompeo is laying in his path. Pompeo’s last minute outrageous actions do not reflect well on American diplomacy. The new administration owes nothing to the right-wing Cuban exile community in Florida. Since Cuba was taken off the list in 2015, has the island engaged in sponsorship of any terrorist organization or act? If the answer is no, Cuba should be removed from it immediately.

Arturo López-Levy is a professor of international relations and politics at Holy Names University in Oakland, California and author of “Raul Castro and the New Cuba: A Close-up of Change.” Twitter, @turylevy.

Translated by Jill Clark-Gollub, COHA Assistant Editor/Translator


  1. You can recognize the progressives swornx by how they defend Cuba, Iran, Fidel Castro, Nicholas Maduro (que se maduro no tiene nada) and Morales. They are also high on the antisemitism trait. For this they admire #AOC #IlhanOmar #LindaSarsour and the long list of antisemites. They insist on calling Israel and the Jews occupants of the land both the Christians’ Bible and history show Jews to be the indigenous people of all that territory. Saying the contrary is similar to affirming Native Americans are not the Native people of this nation! Obama made a mistake removing Cuba from the terrorist list. Cuba, Venezuela are communist and terrorist States just like Iran. Obama showed to have affinity with these terrorist states. He excused the Bacha Bazi or systemic rape of boys in Afghanistan saying that was part of that place’s culture. Most Latinos detest communists and dictatorship. Most Latinos hate Fidel Castro. Hugo Chavez, Morales, and Nicolas Maduro, but there is a percentage of Latinos who are communists. If my heroes are Sor Juana Inez De la Cruz, Policarpa Salavarrieta and Jesus who am I? If my heroes are Fidel Castro, Hugo Chavez, Nicolas Maduro who am I? These progressives were the same people supporting Bernie Sanders. His communist affinity is well documented online. Those who justify communists and terrorists are similar to those who made El Chapo a celebrity ignoring his horrendous crimes all in the name of money. This is the reason progressives have not attracted big numbers if Latinos nationally. The older generations of Latinos are witnesses of Fidel, Hugo, Evo, Daniel communism and terrorism. I am a witness of Venezuela’s devastation under Chavez and Maduro, so a otro perro con ese hueso Arturo López Levy. De verdad eres Levita o eres pura pantalla? Bernie Sanders is also a traitor of his own! Enough with the antisemites and communists! Gente, hoy es Santo Sábado día de reposo y del Dios de Israel; guárdenlo! Enseñen a sus hijos a temer y amar al Dios de Israel y a luchar contra sus enemigos. Y a los antisemitas, les daremos hasta pa sus chicles! No temáis porque el señor tu Dios esta contigo! Shalom!

  2. Cuba y Venezuela leaders are communists and terrorists! FUERA FIDEL CASTRO! This is the reason Trump attracted many Latino supporters. Most Latinos support his fight against communists and terrorists! Trump is right on Cuba!

  3. On another note: People get ready to welcome Kamala Harris’ Era. Kamala is big on compassion and tough on crime. These are the traits of a wise leader! #KamalaHarris #ForthePeople Remember Moisés y el Rey David. Los dos temidos guerreros con un grand Corazón!

  4. Biden’s first act of mischief: Putting American Citizens on Terrorist Lists

    Precedent is a b*tch, you are not going to like where this leads.

    The media outrage is directly proportional to the threat to the rich’s blood chest.

  5. Biden and Trump are right on this, all those are communists and terrorists. Not all protesting were there for the same reason. Those who broke into the White House are terrorists and enemies of United States the same way Cuba, Venezuela, and Iran leaders are terrorists and enemies of the United States! Trump’s incited those White House terrorists. He deserves to be impeached!

  6. Ruby Ridge and Waco Sieges begets

    OKC Bombings begets

    Omnibus Counterterrorism Act of 1995 begets

    Patriot Act begets…

  7. > On another note: People get ready to welcome Kamala Harris’ Era. Kamala is big on compassion and tough on crime.

    Kamala Harris is an identity politics token and intellectual lightweight.

    Her political career is based on her gender and ethnic attributes and not on ability or achievement.

    She is where she is because she has the right gender, the right amount of melanin, and looked the other way when someone mentioned pedophiles.

    > Enough with the antisemites and communists!

    Speak to us about Kamala Harris and postmodernism:

    Is Kamala Harris a postmodernist?

    If you pull on the thread of postmodernism, you will find that it leads back to “neo-Marxism” and to “antisemitism”.

    The postmodernists hate “colonialism”? Who do they consider to be “colonialists”?

    The postmodernists created “Critical Race Theory”. Which “race” do they blame for “oppressed marginalized minorities”?

    According to Louis Farrakhan, which race operated the slave ships that brought the African slaves to the American “colonies”?

    Was it the Irish? Was it the Eskimos? Was it the Chinese?

    Would you like Kamala Harris as much if she WERE a postmodernist?

  8. I support Kamala because she is California not an extreme left or right person. She has earned every title with training, hard work, and experience. Congratulations ??? dear Kamala! #KamalaHarris #ForThePeople

  9. The Willy Brown sexism tactic! NOPE, Willy is nothing! I am sure the Californians who placed her her in office did so for her knowledge and readiness for office not because she had an X relationship with an X politician. The value of X is zero BTW.

  10. > I support Kamala because she is California not an extreme left or right person.

    You’re ducking.

    Is Kamala a postmodernist?

    I’m sure you would be delighted to bleat that she was NOT a Nazi or a “white supremacist”.

    People want to hear you bleat that she is NOT a postmodernist.

    Let the deconstruction begin.

  11. Oh Felix,
    Your off the rails again. Kamala is a insurrectionist encouraging riots and murder all summer long and raising money to bail out and support more riots and murder. Kamala needs to be impeached as an insurrectionist and held accountable for her crimes.

  12. Empty Gun, I thought the coronavirus got to you. Did I tell you Kamala was going to be president? Against all odds from the extremist left and right she is at the WhiteHouse! She will be president, remember me cariño. Glad you are alive. Let’s focus topic on Fidel Castro , Chavez, and Maduro…communists. Eso es todo amigos!

  13. > She will be president, remember me . . .

    She was a useful token when the Dems wanted big popular vote numbers in California.

    But Dems don’t really like her. No one really likes. Women don’t like her since she got to where she is on Willie Browns . . . um . . . influence.

    It will be a circus to see who “the man behind the curtain” puts in office after Biden. They now have broken the system to the point that they no longer have to follow the rules. They make up the rules.

    I have the feeling that a lot of Dems would be giddy to see Stacy Abrams as President. They think “that would really show those white supremacist bigots whose really in charge”.

    How is Willie Brown doing these days? Is there a chance that Willie and Kammie could get back together?

  14. Bubble, the Dems that did not like Kamala were the far left. They wanted Bernie to be president and Ro Khanna VP. Then they voted for Khanna to take place of Newsom at the Democratic convention. Then they wanted Khanna, Bass, or Lee to be California senador. It did not happen. Now, all of them pretend they like her. My type of Democrat were with Kamala from the beginning. We will make her president. Centric Democrat and Republican coalition is the future. Now turn the page! This article is not about Kamala.

  15. Hey Willie, I did not know people pay more attention to my comments than the article or piece of sh!t from Arturo Lopez Levy. Thus, this piece is about our VP #KamalaHarris #ForThePeople Congratulations ? Kamala!

  16. > My type of Democrat were with Kamala from the beginning. We will make her president.

    Kamala dropped out of the Democratic primaries BEFORE the Iowa caucuses. She did not win a SINGLE Democratic Convention delegate.

    “Your type of Democrat” — whatever that is — are either few and far between, or supported someone else in the primaries.

    Democrats really don’t like Kamala.

  17. !Viva la revolucion Cubana!
    !Viva Palestina!
    !Abajo Trumpistas!
    !Abajo Neoliberales!
    !Abajo el imperialismo yanqui!
    !Abajo sionismo!

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