Bipartisan Congressional Group Asks Administration to Keep Cuba on State Sponsor of Terrorism List

Apr 29, 2013

(WASHINGTON) – A bipartisan group of Congressional Members (Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Mario Diaz-Balart, and Albio Sires) explained today in a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry the reasons why Cuba should remain on the State Sponsors of Terrorism.

Statement by Ros-Lehtinen:

“The Castro regime must continue to be designated as a State Sponsor of Terrorism as it:

  • supports and collaborates with Iran and Syria, fellow sponsors of terrorism;
  • provides a safe haven for members of terrorist organizations such as the FARC and ETA;
  • offers sanctuary for fugitives from the U.S. (such as cop killer Joanne Chesimard);
  • unjustly holds a U.S. citizen hostage (Alan Gross);
  • ordered the Brothers to the Rescue shootdown resulting in the deaths of U.S. citizens; and
  • continues its active espionage networks that attempt to undermine U.S. interests and poses a risk to our national security.

These are just a few example of why the Castro regime rightly deserves to be on the State Department terrorism list. Just last week, law enforcement officials indicted Marta Rita Velazquez, a former USAID employee who helped recruit convicted spy Ana Belen Montes, highlighting the real and present threat that the Castro regime poses to the United States.”   

NOTE: U.S. law requires the Secretary of State to provide Congress by April 30 of each year, a full and complete report on terrorism with regard to those countries and groups meeting criteria set forth in the legislation. This annual report is entitled Country Reports on Terrorism. There is no statutory deadline for the designation of countries as State Sponsors of Terrorism.

Text of letter below:

April 29, 2013

The Honorable John Kerry

Secretary

U.S. Department of State

Washington, DC 20521

 

Dear Secretary Kerry:

As Cuban-American Members of Congress, we write to express the critical importance of continuing to list the Cuban dictatorship as a state sponsor of terrorism pursuant to section 6(j) of the Export Administration Act, section 40 of the Arms Export Control Act, and section 620A of the Foreign Assistance Act. 

As you know, the Castro regime maintains close ties with Iran and Syria, two other U.S.-designated state sponsors of terrorism.  Cuba and Iran have signed numerous cooperative and trade agreements, and have worked together to jam American and other outside information from piercing the information blockades imposed on their oppressed peoples.  Cuba and Syria continue to increase their economic ties, shared hatred towards the United States and our ally Israel, and the Castro regime supports the Assad regime as it continues to murder tens of thousands.

The regime in Cuba has also been directly responsible for terrorist acts, such as the 1996 shoot-down of the Brothers to the Rescue planes over international waters and the resulting murder of three innocent Americans and one U.S. resident.  There remain three outstanding indictments against the Cuban Air Force pilots, Lorenzo Alberto Pérez-Pérez and Francisco Pérez-Pérez, and the head of the Cuban Air Force, General Rubén Martínez Puente, for that act egregious act of international terrorism.  We would urge you to indict Fidel and Raul Castro for ordering these brutal attacks against American civilians.

The Castro regime also maintains an active espionage network against the United States.  Convicted Cuban spies include Ana Belen Montes, the five “WASP” spies, and Gwendolyn and Walter Meyers. In addition, most recently, it has come to our attention that a former U.S. Agency for International Development employee named Marta Rita Velazquez was indicted with conspiracy to commit espionage because she helped recruit Ana Belen Montes to spy on behalf of the Cuban regime.   

The Cuban dictatorship maintains close links to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), a U.S.-designated terrorist organization, which held hostage American citizens and continues terrorist acts against the strong U.S. ally Colombia.  The Castro regime continues to provide safe harbor and assistance to members of the FARC, and provides a refuge for terrorist members of the Basque Fatherland and Liberty (ETA), also a U.S.-designated terrorist organization.

Furthermore, the Cuban regime continues to provide safe harbor to more than seventy fugitives who fled U.S. justice including:

  • Joanne Chesimard, who murdered New Jersey State Trooper Werner Foerster during a routine traffic stop and was convicted of first degree murder, assault and battery of a police officer, assault with a dangerous weapon, assault with intent to kill, illegal possession of a weapon, and armed robbery, and remains one of the Top Ten “Featured Fugitives” on the FBI’s Domestic Terrorism List;
  • Victor Manuel Gerena, on the FBI’s list of the ‘Ten Most Wanted’ fugitives for carrying out a brutal $7 million robbery of a Wells Fargo armored car in Connecticut.

It is unconscionable that these violent fugitives escaped U.S. justice only to be welcomed by their Cuban hosts.  It underscores that any enemy of the United States is considered a friend to the Castro regime.

Finally, no assessment of the true nature of the Cuban dictatorship is complete without examining the regime’s brutal repression of pro-democracy activists and anyone else who attempts to pierce the regime’s information blockade.  Numerous reports have indicated that repression in Cuba has escalated in recent months with brutal beatings targeted against the Ladies in White, independent journalists, religious leaders, artists, and many others. On March 12, 2013, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper testified before Congress that, “There is no indication that Castro’s efforts, including his stated interest in laying the groundwork for a generational transition in leadership, will loosen the regime’s grip on power.” Furthermore, the regime’s continued and unjustifiable imprisonment of U.S. humanitarian aid worker Alan Gross since December 2009 is another example of the regime’s moral depravity.  Mr. Gross’ “crime” was attempting to connect Cuba’s small Jewish community to the internet.  In Castro’s Cuba, the most innocuous acts are “crimes” which can result in long prison sentences in abhorrent conditions.   

The regime in Cuba has not changed.  In 2008, the Bush Administration mistakenly removed North Korea from the state sponsor of terrorism list. Now, the North Korean regime continues to increase tensions in the region putting the lives of our allies and of U.S. citizens in danger. The Cuban regime has deepened ties with other terrorist states and terrorist organizations, actively opposed U.S. interests, provided safe harbor to dangerous fugitives, escalated its brutal campaign of oppression against its own citizens, and refused to release U.S. citizen Alan Gross for more than three years.  To award a unilateral concession to the Castro dictatorship would encourage the regime to continue its reprehensible ways at the expense of the Cuban people and America’s interests. 

For these reasons, we firmly believe that the brutal Castro dictatorship should remain on the U.S. State Department’s list of terrorist states.   

Sincerely,

#######