SunSentinel, Feburary 24, 2015
By Frank Calzon
While President Barack Obama recently “instructed” Secretary of State John Kerry to review whether Cuba belongs on the State Department’s list of “State Sponsors of Terrorism,” the Federal Bureau of Investigation offered a reward of “up to $1 million for information directly leading to the apprehension of Joanne Chesimard,” a terrorist living in Cuba after escaping from prison in 1979, where she was serving a life sentence for killing a New Jersey policeman.
Chesimard was a member of “a revolutionary extremist organization,” which used robberies to fund its activities, according to the FBI. Stopped by New Jersey troopers, she and her accomplices opened fire. One trooper was wounded, another shot and killed “execution-style at point-blank range,” the FBI said.
Cuba is the only government that appears on the list of State Sponsors of Terrorism to publicly acknowledge providing safe haven to one listed on the FBI’s Top Ten Most Wanted Terrorists. Cuba is also the only government on the List of State Sponsors of Terrorism that has several officers under indictment for murder and terrorism by an American federal grand jury: the Cuban Air Force officers who murdered three Americans and a Florida resident on an afternoon in 1996, in the Florida Straits, in international airspace.
They were helping to rescue refugees. The killings were ordered by Raul Castro, who awarded medals to the murderers.
Cuba also provides safe haven for common criminals, such as Robert Vesco, who was wanted in the U.S. for crimes ranging from securities fraud and drug trafficking to political bribery. After difficulties with the Castro brothers, he died in a Cuban prison.
Presumably, the millions of dollars stolen by Vesco ended up in Castro’s coffers. There is no record of any effort by Washington to recover those funds.
The Sun Sentinel has reported on “Cuban nationals in various frauds and thefts including Medicare,” revealing that hundreds of millions of dollars from American taxpayers have been deposited in Cuba’s National Bank; deposits that had to be approved by Raul Castro. There is no record of U.S. demands for those funds to be returned.
Cuba is also the only nation to be caught red-handed shipping 240 tons of heavy weapons, including war planes, beneath bags of sugar to North Korea in violation of United Nations’ sanctions. Additionally the Cuban government has trained and equipped Venezuela’s repressive forces and offered Russia’s Vladimir Putin an espionage “listening post” in Cuba.
If President Obama removes Cuba from the U.S. State Department’s list of terrorist states, he will not only have rewarded the Castro regime for its crimes but encourage more of the same.
It is hard to imagine President Obama reversing any of his concessions to Havana but fortunately for the American people, the Founding Fathers — in their wisdom — created a government of checks and balances. Congress still has a role to play in shaping U.S. policy at home and abroad.
Frank Calzon is executive director of the Center for a Free Cuba.