Cuba has been placed back on the list of countries that do not cooperate fully with the United States’ efforts to counter terrorism, the U.S. State Department announced on May 13.
The move comes after the communist government continues to harbor Colombia’s leftist National Liberation Army (ELN, in Spanish) guerrillas, who traveled to Havana in 2017 to negotiate with the Colombian government but have yet to come back.
After the ELN detonated a car bomb on a Bogotá police academy in January 2019 — killing 21 recruits — Colombian President Iván Duque broke off talks with the rebel group. The ELN has been demanding, unsuccessfully, that Colombia grant safe passage for its negotiators to return from Cuba.
“Cuba’s refusal to productively engage with the Colombian government demonstrates that it is not cooperating with U.S. work to support Colombia’s efforts to secure a just and lasting peace, security, and opportunity for its people,” the U.S. State Department said.
This marks the first time Cuba has been reinstated on the list since the 2015 U.S. counterterrorism report. It joins the ranks of four other U.S. adversaries — Iran, North Korea, Syria, and Venezuela. According to the U.S. State Department’s website, the other four countries continue to remain on the list for the following reasons:
Iran: In 2019, Iran continued to be the world’s largest state sponsor of terrorism, supporting Hezbollah, Palestinian terrorist groups, and other terrorist groups operating throughout the Middle East.
Venezuela: In 2019, Nicolás Maduro and members of his regime continued to provide permissive environments for terrorists such as the ELN and Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC, in Spanish) dissidents in the region to maintain a presence. The U.S. Department of Justice has criminally charged Maduro and certain other former regime members with running a narco-terrorist partnership with the FARC for the past 20 years.
Syria: The Assad regime has continued its political and military support for terrorist groups, including the provision of weapons and political support to Hezbollah. Syria’s relationship with Hezbollah and Iran grew stronger in 2019 as the regime became more reliant on external actors to fight opponents and secure areas.
North Korea: In 2019, four Japanese individuals who participated in the 1970 hijacking of a Japan Airlines flight continued to live in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK). The Japanese government also continued to seek a full account of the fate of 12 Japanese nationals believed to have been abducted by DPRK state entities in the 1970s and 1980s.
The U.S. government is also considering returning Cuba to its list of state sponsors of terrorism, a senior U.S. State Department official told Reuters. Countries placed on that list have repeatedly sponsored or provided support for acts of international terrorism. The list carries the potential for additional sanctions and trade restrictions.
The U.S. State Department currently designates Iran, North Korea, Sudan, and Syria as state sponsors of terrorism.
Among some of the reasons to classify Cuba as a state sponsor of terrorism is its support for Nicolás Maduro. The U.S. government indicted Maduro and members of his inner circle in March on charges of “narco-terrorism” conspiracy, corruption, and drug trafficking.
A senior U.S. official told Reuters that the U.S. was also considering designating several of Venezuela’s security services as terrorist organizations, in part for alleged links to drug trafficking. Those include the national intelligence service, the military counterintelligence agency (SEBIN, in Spanish) and elite police unit (FAES, in Spanish), in addition to paramilitary groups loyal to Maduro.