Does Cuba still belong on the sponsor of terrorism list?

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.

 

U.S. Cuba policy worthy of Ripley’s ‘believe it or not’

Miami Herald, February 11, 2015

BY FRANK CALZON

CUBACENTER.ORG

02/11/2015 5:38 PM

For many years, author Robert Ripley roamed the Earth collecting oddities and strange stories and establishing “odditoriums” to display them. Were Ripley still alive, he’d be writing and drawing cartoons about Cuba, the Castros and President Barack Obama’s attempt to “normalize” relations between the United States and Cuba.

Whether the Americans today “believe it or not,” just two years ago the Cuban government was caught trying to smuggle, through the Panama Canal, two warplanes, missiles and other armaments packed under tons of sugar in a North Korean freighter heading “home” from Cuba. The United Nations was outraged that Cuba violated the sanctions it had placed — at Europe’s insistence — on arms shipments to North Korea.

President Obama? Not so much. While declaring the U.S.’ 50-year trade embargo imposed on Cuba a failure, Obama pivoted to embrace Europe’s 50-year-old “policy of engagement” with the Castros’ regimes.

Can you believe it? After 50 years, an American president has declared a failure U.S. trade policy aimed at easing the oppressive grip of communism on Cuba and restoring a rule of law in order to embrace Europe’s policy of engagement, which in 50 years has achieved exactly the same result:Nada.

CALZON

Cuba has no free elections, no free enterprise, no rule of law, no free speech or press, no respect for human rights. What it has are political prisoners, food rationing, a passion for exporting revolution and refugees.

The new policy is the same 50-some-year-old European policy of engagement.

The “Cuba policy” of Europe, Japan, and Canada is to maintain “normal” diplomatic relations, send millions of tourists to the island, extend credit to facilitate trade and to gift the Castro regime with millions in development aid. It is a policy that has changed nothing for the Cuban people.

Were President Obama’s logic and measure of success to be applied to European, Japanese and Canadian policies for “engaging Cuba,” those policies, too, would be judged failures.

What is and has been missing in international policy vis-à-vis Cuba are conditions — “We’ll do this, if you do that.” Cuba’s President Gen. Raúl Castro wants loans, tourists, access to the World Bank.

Only the United States has tried to tie what Havana “wants” to specific economic reforms and an end to repression on the island. Without such conditions, or linkages, “opening the island” does not empower the Cuban people or improve their lives; it empowers the Castro communist dictatorship.

It’s not hard to image that Ripley, were he alive today, might note that, “Believe it or not,” President Obama:

▪ Has a more amicable relationship with the Castros’ hostile Cuban regime than with Benjamin Netanyahu, the prime minister of Israel, an important U.S. ally.

▪ Asked Secretary of State John Kerry to determine how Cuba can be removed from the State Department’s list of states sponsoring terrorism. He did so, even though Cuba refuses to return Joanne Chesimard, who fled to the island after killing a New Jersey State Trooper while escaping from a U.S. prison. The FBI lists her as one of its 10 Most Wanted Terrorists, but Fidel Castro granted her safe haven.

▪ Isn’t seeking the return of hundreds of millions of dollars stolen in the United States and deposited in Cuba’s National Bank, including $300 million tracked to a Medicare fraud.

Then there are the oddities, like stories of emboldened Cuban-American exiles seeking to reclaim confiscated property or to re-establish their business, believing they can profit because the Cuban government-controlled wages average $20 a month and independent labor unions, collective bargaining and strikes are banned.

And, of course Fidel Castro’s famous cow, White Udder. White Udder enjoyed air conditioning, a special diet, medical care and classical music piped into her barn. She broke all records for milk production. After dying of tuberculosis, she was embalmed and placed in a glass case at a school where admiring children line up to visit her — just as tourists line up in Red Square to visit Lenin’s Tomb.

FRANK CALZON IS EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF THE CENTER FOR A FREE CUBA IN WASHINGTON, D.C.

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