Friday, May 2, 2014

Cuba: a 'State Sponsor' of Terror?

This week the U.S. State Department published its annual list of state sponsors of terrorism, and once again it includes Cuba despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. 

Cuba, which has been on the list since 1982, was listed alongside Iran, Sudan and Syria as countries that have “repeatedly provided support for acts of international terrorism.” It is telling, however, that the brief section on Cuba is less than 200 words, while at least three times as much content is devoted to each of the other countries on the list. The report also points out “there was no indication that the Cuban government provided weapons or paramilitary training to terrorist groups.”

It’s also notable that while the State Department names two terrorist organizations -- the Basque Fatherland and Liberty (ETA) and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) -- as having enjoyed support on the island in the past, it notes that the Cubans have played key roles in facilitating dialogue between both groups and the governments of Colombia and Spain. Both of these countries have expressed gratitude for Cuba’s cooperation.

Critics of U.S. policy towards Cuba have long pointed to its inclusion on the terrorist sponsor list as a sign of an antiquated, Cold War-era approach in Washington. While the U.S. has adamantly refused to remove Cuba from the list, this clashes with the fact that the island has made steady progress in line with U.S.-supported anti-terrorism standards. 

In 2012, for instance, Cuba joined the Financial Action Task Force of South America, an international organization which fights money laundering and terrorist financing. This year’s report excludes previous mentions of non-compliance with the task force. As Café Fuerte points out, this appears to be in recognition of an anti-terrorism law passed in late 2013.

And while it is true that a number of individuals wanted in the U.S. continue to enjoy asylum on the island, in recent years the government has turned over several would- be fugitives. In 2006, the State Department even acknowledged that Cuba had provided assurances that it would not accept any more of these, whether or not their crimes were considered “political.”

In response to its designation, the Cuban government has expressed indignation. As Reuters reports, the country’s Foreign Ministry characterized the list as “spurious” and “arbitrary.” Considering all the evidence against its inclusion as a state sponsor of terrorism, it is hard to disagree.

News Briefs
  • After repeatedly delaying the publication of the regulatory details of the country’s landmark marijuana law, the government of Uruguay is poised to finally release them today. Citing a source in the presidency, Subrayado reports that President Jose Mujica will hold a press conference later today to announce the law's specifics.
  • Guatemalan President Otto Perez Molina appears to be weighing his choices for the country’s next attorney general. The president has announced that he will hold a 45-minute interview with each of the six candidates today, and intends to make his selection either before or after a scheduled trip to the UK next Tuesday. Because he has postponed the trip for the interviewing process, Perez Molina has also raised the potential of cancelling the visit altogether. Meanwhile, Prensa Libre outlines seven challenges that the country’s next top prosecutor could face, and El Periodico highlights commentary by various analysts who suggest improvements to the work of outgoing Attorney General Claudia Paz y Paz.
  • Ahead of Sunday’s presidential elections in Panama, Reuters has a useful roundup of the positions and alliances of the three main candidates. Polls suggest Jose Domingo Arias of the ruling Democratic Change (CD) party, whose VP pick is President Ricardo Martinelli's wife, is nearly tied with Juan Carlos Navarro of the Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD). Both Navarro and the third-place candidate, current Vice President Juan Carlos Varela, have run on platforms to be more transparent than Martinelli, who is accused of seeking to maintain a grip on power after leaving office.
  • Bolivia’s Supreme Electoral Council has set a fixed date for the country’s upcoming presidential elections. La Razon reports that the vote, in which President Evo Morales will be seeking re-election, will be held on October 12.
  • Foreign Policy’s Angel Ricardo Martinez looks at the combination of crime, scarcity and inflation in Venezuela, factors which he claims are being “pushed aside” by an overwhelming focus on the human rights situation in the country. He goes on to focus on the government’s long-standing fuel subsidies as a primary example of the economic mismanagement which has contributed to the recent wave of protests.  
  • In a recent article in Foreign Affairs, Cynthia Arnson and Carlos de la Torre offer a comparative look at the ALBA bloc governments to the region’s populist leaders of the 1930s and 1940s, noting key differences in their discourse. The two also weigh the benefits of this updated version of populism -- like ethnic inclusion and reduced poverty -- against its primary drawbacks: a general deterioration of independent civil society and liberal democratic norms.
  • With opinion surveys suggesting that her lead ahead of Brazil’s general elections in October is narrowing, and that many of her base would rather have former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva (see this analysis on recent polls by The Economist) back in office, Folha reports that the president is weighing naming Lula as her official campaign coordinator.  Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal notes that Rousseff announced an expansion of the popular “Bolsa Familia” program by 10 percent yesterday.
  • Amid ongoing rural protests in Colombia, led by campesino groups which accuse President Juan Manuel Santos of not fulfilling promises made during similar protests last year, La Silla Vacia takes a look at the specific accords and assesses the government’s level of compliance with them.  In general, the news site notes there has been mixed progress on some issues, but that it has been held up by a lack of political will and bureaucratic delays.
  • Earlier this week, Oscar-winning Mexican director Alfonso Cuaron received a wave of press for publishing a full-page ad in several newspapers in which he asked President Enrique Peña Nieto 10 questions about his oil reform proposal. Among the list were questions related to how foreign capital would be allowed to invest in Pemex, and how officials would contain corruption in the oil sector. As the L.A. Times reports, the president issued an in-depth response to the questions, which was presented publicly and provided further details about the president’s plan.  Animal Politico has the full, 13-page response from the administration.