US removes Cuba from list of nations not cooperating on anti-terrorism measures

20th May 2024

The US government has removed Cuba from its latest list of countries that it says do not fully co-operate with its anti-terrorist efforts. Despite this, Cuba remains on Washington’s separate list of nations that it alleges are state sponsors of terrorism: a designation that has made it difficult to undertake international financial or other business transactions with the island.

In an email, a US State Department spokesperson confirmed that Cuba was not on its list of non-fully cooperating nations for calendar year 2023 under Section 40A of the Arms Export Control Act. It reflected, a spokesperson said, the fact that on the order of Colombia’s President, the country’s Attorney General had suspended the arrest warrants for 17 ELN commanders, including those whose extradition Colombia had previously requested from Cuba. It also noted that “The United States and Cuba resumed police cooperation in 2023, including in the fight against terrorism. Therefore, the Department determined that continuing to certify Cuba as a ‘not fully cooperating country’ was no longer appropriate.”

The official added however, that the designation was “not the same list as that of State Sponsors of Terrorism”, which “under US law establishes specific legal criteria for rescinding a designation of that nature.” “Any future review of Cuba’s status would be based on the law and the criteria established by Congress,” the official said.

Responding to the change in designation, Cuba’s Government said that the US decision was insufficient. President Díaz-Canel wrote on X: “By confirming what is widely known, that Cuba cooperates in the battle against terrorism, the US should do what is correct and consistent with that position: remove #Cuba from the State Department’s arbitrary list and end the coercive economic measures that accompany it.”

In another post, Bruno Rodríguez, Cuba’s Foreign Minister, wrote that the US “has just admitted what is known to everyone: that Cuba collaborates fully with efforts against terrorism.” Rodríguez demanded that the US Government remove Cuba from “the arbitrary list with which it designates countries that supposedly sponsor terrorism.” “All political manipulation of the issue should cease and our arbitrary and unjust inclusion on the list of countries sponsoring terrorism should end,” he added.

Other similar posts on X were made by MINREX Ministers who have actively participated in recent meetings with US officials in Washington and Havana on security matters. Such exchanges aim to deepen existing cooperation on counter-terrorism, narcotics interdiction, and human trafficking, matters on which the two capitals, their coastguards and related entities co-operate.

Responding to the Biden Administration’s decision, the US Senator, Rick Scott, (R-Florida)  said that the removal of Cuba as a non-cooperating state was “a first step to reverse the designation of Cuba as a State Sponsor of Terrorism.” He described it as an act of appeasement, as destabilising to the Western Hemisphere, supportive of terrorism, and delivering “a huge favour for America’s enemies in Russia, Iran, and communist China.”

The nations listed by Washington in its 2023 report as non-cooperating countries are North Korea, Iran, Syria, and Venezuela. The inclusion of Cuba in the US list of countries alleged to be sponsoring terrorism was taken in January 2021, one of the last decisions made by the Trump Administration. It did so on the basis that Cuba refused to extradite to Colombia, guerilla leaders involved in peace negotiations in Havana, a process in which Norway and Cuba were guarantors on terms that included safe passage for all participants out of the country.