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    Congressional Oversight Needed as Obama Administration Moves to Remove Cuba from State Sponsors of Terrorism List

    Congressional Oversight Needed as Obama Administration Moves to Remove
    Cuba from State Sponsors of Terrorism List
    By Ana Quintana

    The Obama Administration has recently chosen to normalize relations with
    Cuba. In addition to establishing embassies and expanding commercial
    transactions, the White House has also declared that Cuba will be
    removed from the State Department’s State Sponsors of Terrorism list.
    To remove Cuba from the list would be to ignore both the Cuban
    government’s inherently malicious nature and the utility of terrorist
    designations. For over three decades, the Castro regime has directly
    supported organizations designated by the U.S. government as terrorist.
    Recent activities that warrant Cuba’s place on the list include Havana’s
    violations of United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolutions,
    leadership role in directing Venezuela’s military and intelligence, and
    steadfast support and intimate relationship with such countries as
    Syria, Iran, and North Korea. The Castro regime also continues to harbor
    U.S. fugitives and subsidize their livelihoods. One fugitive has been on
    the FBI’s Most Wanted Terrorists list since 2013 for killing a New
    Jersey State Trooper.
    Removing Cuba from the list would also remove restrictions that preclude
    their receipt preferential foreign aid and trade benefits. Repealing the
    designation combined with further weakening of sanctions will not bode
    well for U.S. taxpayers. The regime routinely defaults on foreign loans
    and is guilty of the largest uncompensated theft of U.S. assets in
    recorded history, valued at $7 billion. Congress cannot ignore the
    implications of an undeserving regime’s being removed from this list.

    Why the Castro Regime Cannot Be Trusted
    President Obama’s new Cuba policy has been heavily criticized and
    rightfully so. His predecessors, both Republican and Democrat,
    recognized that a Cuba governed by the Castro regime will never be
    receptive to genuine engagement.
    Previous unilateral attempts by the Carter and Clinton Administrations
    to reduce hostilities ended up backfiring on the U.S. In 1977, President
    Carter reestablished diplomatic relations by allowing each country
    reciprocal interest sections. The government in Havana responded shortly
    thereafter by sending expeditionary forces and resources to Marxist
    insurgencies in over a dozen African countries. The Clinton
    Administration for years attempted to improve relations and was rewarded
    by the Castro regime’s shooting down of Brothers to the Rescue flights.
    In what the U.S. determined to be an international act of terrorism, the
    Cuban military, at the order of current leader Raul Castro, shot down
    two American aircraft over international waters, killing three American
    citizens and one U.S. resident.
    According to the State Department’s annual terrorism report, the
    government in Havana continues to support the terrorist Colombia’s
    Revolutionary Armed Forces (FARC).[1] While the FARC have been weakened,
    it is premature to assume that they have been defeated. Throughout the
    past two years of peace talks in Havana, the FARC has continued to
    kidnap and kill Colombian civilians and military alike. FARC strongholds
    still exist throughout the country, and it is widely known that they
    have sanctuary just across the border in Venezuela. Considering that the
    FARC has relationships with Islamist terrorist organizations, has
    murdered a quarter-million Colombians, and has established drug
    trafficking networks spanning the globe, the threat that it poses is
    Most recently in July of 2013, Havana was found to have violated UNSC
    arms trafficking resolutions 1718, 1874, and 2094. Panamanian
    authorities seized a North Korean freighter for attempting to transport
    missiles and fighter planes through the Panama Canal concealed under
    sacks of sugar.[2]
    Cuba walked away unscathed, despite being the first country in the
    Western Hemisphere to violate these resolutions. It should be noted that
    the State Department’s 2013 Country Reports on Terrorism made no mention
    of the incident despite its release date of April 2014.

    Cuba’s Removal Would Violate the Law and Potentially Endanger U.S. Taxpayers
    According to Section 6 of the Export Administration Act (EAA), the law
    by which Cuba was added to the State Sponsors of Terrorism list, the
    country can be removed from the list only if:[3]
    (A) (i) there has been a fundamental change in the leadership and
    policies of the government of the country concerned;
    (ii) that government is not supporting acts of international terrorism; and
    (iii) that government has provided assurances that it will not support
    acts of international terrorism in the future; or
    (B) (i) the government concerned has not provided any support for
    international terrorism during the preceding 6-month period; and
    (ii) the government concerned has provided assurances that it will not
    support acts of international terrorism in the future.
    It is easy to deduce that Cuba fails to meet the requirements of both
    sections. Cuba’s leadership has not changed, nor has its political
    system. In spite of its new relationship with the U.S., Cuba’s leader
    Raul Castro claims the government will not democratize. While Cuba’s
    financial circumstances have curbed its ability to support international
    terrorism, its alliances with Syria, Iran, and North Korea should remain
    a source of concern. It is also unlikely that the U.S. could ever
    receive genuine guarantees against future actions, as recent talks in
    Havana proved. Cuba’s top diplomat stated: “Change in Cuba isn’t
    Terrorism designations as determined by the EAA are a critical
    instrument in foreign policy, as they carry restrictions on U.S. foreign
    aid, commercial transactions, and participation in international
    financial institutions.
    Even though these restrictions and others are further reinforced by the
    Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity (Libertad) Act of 1996, a law
    which strengthened the Cuban embargo, the Obama Administration is
    systematically chipping away at the embargo until it becomes obsolete.
    For example, the Administration recently expanded the allowable
    exceptions on Cuban imports from the U.S. Items such as building
    materials are now classified as agricultural products. It can be argued
    that this new regulation is a violation of the law as Castro’s military
    controls much of Cuba’s agricultural sector.

    Congress Cannot Ignore the Dangerous Implications
    While terrorist designations fall under presidential powers, Congress
    can and should remain vigilant with respect to the White House’s
    dangerous rapprochements. The ultimate focus should be on promoting
    policies that protect U.S. national security while simultaneously
    promoting U.S. values such as freedom and democracy.
    More specifically, Congress should:
    -Urge the President to condition all future U.S. agreements with the
    Cuban government upon significant, meaningful, and measurable changes.
    The President’s new Cuba policy has gone against the principle of
    existing U.S. law by not requiring the Cuban government to modify its
    behavior one iota in exchange for a loosening of restrictions. Many are
    quick to point out that the regime released 53 political prisoners in
    January, but that proved to be mistaken. Many of the prisoners either
    had already been released or were close to being set free. They were
    also subsequently put under strict house arrest or arrested shortly
    afterwards for political reasons. In the 18 months the White House was
    secretly negotiating with the regime, there were over 13,000 political
    arrests on the island. Arrests in 2014 represented a 40 percent increase
    from the preceding year. The White House has yet to impose any serious
    conditions on Cuba.[5]
    – Continue to support Cuba’s democratic opposition and human rights
    activists. Congress must make sure that U.S. policy continues to support
    civil society groups on the island that uphold U.S. values and are
    unaffiliated with the Castro regime and its Communist ideology. The
    Cuban government is strongly against Washington’s support for dissidents
    and is painting it as an obstacle to the President’s much-wanted embassy
    in Havana. Congress has must continue its active support for these
    – Ensure that current and future funding from the U.S. Agency for
    International Development and State Department does not support the
    Cuban government or military. While these groups have generally been
    prohibited from receiving U.S. assistance, the Cuban government is
    pushing the Obama Administration to fund its regime-sponsored Communist
    groups. Members of Congress hold the purse strings, and prohibiting the
    funding of these groups falls to them.
    – Reject policies that support financing for U.S. exports. Business
    interests have been leading the movement against the Cuban embargo, and
    the President’s new policy has emboldened them. Recently, the U.S
    Agricultural Coalition for Cuba was launched. Backed by large
    corporations such as Cargill, the coalition is lobbying to end the
    embargo in order to receive U.S. taxpayer subsidies for exports to Cuba.
    Business interests should not be allowed to dictate foreign policy.
    – Keep the Focus on Cuba. Congress must stay vigilant with respect to
    the President’s naïve approach to the Castro regime. President Obama has
    granted an undeserving dictatorship the prestige of being allowed an
    embassy and an ambassador in the U.S. He continues to refer to Cuba’s
    leader and unelected dictator, Raul Castro, as president. The next move
    appears to be removing Cuba from the State Sponsors of Terrorism list.
    Terrorism designation is not only about what the country is currently
    doing, but also about the potential for future malicious actions.
    Removing Cuba from the terrorist list is much more than a symbolic
    gesture. It carries far-reaching implications that can endanger U.S.
    national security interests.
    —Ana Quintana is a Research Associate for Latin America in the Douglas
    and Sarah Allison Center for Foreign and National Security Policy, of
    the Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for National Security and
    Foreign Policy, at The Heritage Foundation.

    Source: Cuba, Latin America, Alan Gross, Fidel Castro –