Will Biden Undo Cuba Terror Status?
Obama's theory failed — normalizing relations with Havana didn't compel the Castro regime to change.
The communist dictatorship of Cuba has been placed once again on the U.S. State Department’s list of state sponsors of terrorism after Barack Obama removed it in 2015. Obama’s theory that normalizing relations with the Castro regime would encourage democratic reforms proved a failure. If anything, it only had the effect of further strengthening the regime’s hold on power.
Furthermore, rather than dissuade Cuba from supporting the efforts of terrorists, the Castro regime expanded its support, as Havana offered military intelligence assistance to Venezuelan dictator Nicolas Maduro. The State Department noted that “Cuba and Venezuela continued to provide permissive environments for terrorists.” Those terrorists include the Colombian drug cartel known as FARC, as well as the rebel National Liberation Army (ELN).
The State Department report states that “members of the ELN who were in Havana to conduct peace talks with the Colombian government since 2017 also remain in Cuba,” where they have been protected from extradition even as they “claimed responsibility for the January 2019 bombing of a Bogota police academe, which killed 22 and injured 87 others.”
In making the designation announcement, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo explained, “The Trump Administration has been focused from the start on denying the Castro regime the resources it used to oppress its people at home, and countering its malign interference in Venezuela and the rest of the Western Hemisphere. With this action, we will once again hold Cuba’s government accountable and send a clear message: the Castro regime must end its support for international terrorism and subversion of the U.S.”
Naturally, Democrats were quick to criticize the move. Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) called it blatantly political and accused the administration of making “a mockery of what had been a credible, objective measure of a foreign government’s active support for terrorism.” That is nothing more than the usual Democrat projection. It is Obama who made a mockery of credible foreign policy. Unfortunately, we expect Joe Biden to follow suit.
Nonetheless, this move by the Trump administration will make it more difficult for Biden to normalize U.S. relations with Cuba. As the American Enterprise Institute’s Ryan Berg explained, “A diplomatic opening with a country designated as a ‘state sponsor of terror’ is a difficult lift. Therefore, one of the first steps to any Cuba opening would likely require a reversal of this decision.” And given Cuba’s continued record since 2015 of continuing to aid and protect terrorists, it will not be an easy task.