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Pompeo weighs plan to include Cuba on the list of US terrorist sponsors

State Department officials drafted a proposal to designate Cuba as the national sponsor of terrorism. This is a last-hour foreign policy move that will complicate the incoming Biden administration to ease the pressure on Havana by the United States. .

Two U.S. officials said that with three weeks left before their inauguration day, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo must decide whether to sign the plan. This move will also thank Cuban Americans and other anti-Communist Latinos. In Florida, he strongly supported President Trump and his fellow Republicans in the November election.

It is not clear whether Mr. Pompeo has decided to continue appointing the position. However, Democrats and foreign policy experts believe that Mr. Trump and his senior officials are eager to find ways to restrict the president-elect Biden’s first few months and make it more difficult for Biden to reverse Trump’s foreign policy. . In recent weeks, Trump officials have also tried to increase US pressure and sanctions on China and Iran.

In the State Department’s official description of the sponsors of terrorist countries, the discovery that a country “has provided support for international terrorist acts on many occasions” automatically triggered the United States to impose sanctions on its government. If added, Cuba will only join the other three countries: Iran, North Korea and Syria.

The Biden administration can act quickly to remove Cuba from the list. However, this requires more than a presidential pen. The State Department will have to conduct a formal review, which may take several months.

The State Department spokesperson said that the agency does not discuss “review or potential review” of terrorism designations. The White House did not provide comment.

The Democrats blasted Cuba’s proposal on Tuesday, criticizing their so-called 11th hour foreign policy changes, which unfairly restricted the incoming Biden team.

The new chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and representative of the New York Democratic Party, Gregory W. Meeks, said in a telephone interview: “This is the president’s stunt in less than 23 days.”

Meeks added: “He is trying to handcuff the incoming government.”

Following President Barack Obama’s announcement of the normalization of relations between Washington and Havana, the U.S. State Department removed Cuba from its list of sponsors of terrorism in 2015. This was the first time since the Communist Revolution in 1959. Cuba calls it a relic of the Cold War. In return for guarantees of political and social reform, Mr. Obama lifted economic sanctions, eased restrictions on travel and trade, and reopened the embassy in Havana for the first time in decades. In 2016, he became the first US president to visit the island since Calvin Coolidge.

The Reagan administration first added Cuba to the terrorist list in 1982 because it supported left-wing insurgents in Latin America. In the Obama era, the State Department called it a “safe haven” for Basque separatists and Colombian rebels. But Obama administration officials ultimately did not conclude that neither the old-school Basques nor the Colombian insurgents who participated in the peace negotiations in Havana that led to the 2016 peace agreement with the Colombian government constituted no terrorist threat.

They are also willing to accept that the Cuban government has taken in some wanted criminals in the United States, including Joanne D. Chesimade, a 73-year-old member of the Black Liberation Army. Ms. Chesimard was listed as the FBI’s most wanted terrorist for killing a New Jersey cavalry in 1973. Her current name is Assata Shakur.

In a potential preview of the re-listing, the State Council notified Congress in May that Cuba is one of five countries and that Cuba and the United States are said to have not “fully cooperated” in their counter-terrorism efforts, which is the first time since 2015 that there is no Cuban certification. .

The notice cited Cuba’s refusal to extradite 10 leaders of the National Liberation Army living in Havana by Cuba’s refusal of the request of the United States ally Colombia. The organization claimed responsibility for the bombing of the police school in Bogotá in January 2019, killing 22 people.

But Democrats say that Cuba’s idea of ​​a terrorist threat to the outside world is political fiction.

“This is total nonsense. Cuba is not a national sponsor of terrorism,” said Ben Rhodes. Ben Rhodes is Mr. Obama’s deputy national security adviser and played a central role in facilitating the government’s deal with Havana.

Mr. Trump condemned the agreement as “terrible and misleading” and withdrew many clauses. When visiting southern Florida, he boasted that he was standing in a communist country in Latin America and warned Mr. Biden not to do this. This message is popular among Cuban Americans and other voters who are hostile to Havana.

As a candidate, Mr. Biden promised to change U.S. policy again, stating that he will “swiftly reverse the failed Trump policies, which harm the Cuban people and do not help advance democracy and human rights.”

Cuba’s repressive government was disappointed in hopes of letting go of liberalism after the death of revolutionary leader Fidel Castro in November 2016. Prove to many Republicans that their government should not get friendly relations from Washington.

Trump administration officials also severely criticized the Cuban government’s support for Venezuelan socialist leader Nicolas Maduro. Trump tried to get rid of power in vain for several years.

In an opinion piece published this month in the Miami Herald, Florida Republican Senator Marco Rubio and voices influential in Cuban policy urged Mr. Biden to stand with dissidents there. Together, and urged Biden not to “repeat the same mistakes. Support the Cuban policy-and provide a lifeline for Raul Castro’s dictatorship.”

US officials said that the plan to restore Cuba to the list of sponsors of terrorism was formulated by the State Department’s Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs rather than its Counter-Terrorism Bureau, which is different from conventional procedures, which usually play a central role in this decision.

Mr. Rhodes described this as evidence of political motivation. He said: “This shows that they know they can’t put Cuba on the list they deserve.”

Critics say that the Trump administration has begun to politicize this name, which will be a national security issue. This month, days before African countries joined the list of Arab countries that have established diplomatic relations with Israel, the United States removed Sudan from its list of sponsors of terrorism. This is Mr. Trump’s top priority.

The Trump administration has recently suppressed Cuban companies operated or affiliated with the Cuban military. Last week, the Ministry of Finance blacklisted three such businesses.

A new report commissioned by the State Department found that the staff of the U.S. Embassy in Havana became ill in 2016 due to microwave weapons that were most likely to be of unknown origin. The Cuban government denied any news of such attacks.

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