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International Condemnation as US Returns Cuba to the List

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As one of its last acts on the way out the door, the Trump administration re-designated Cuba as state sponsor of terrorism on Monday. The move reverses a decision made during the Obama era. It will now be more difficult for the Biden administration to quickly restore ties with Cuba.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made the ill-timed announcement in a broadcast shortly following the U.S. domestic terrorist attack on the Washington Capitol on January 6.

In 1982, the U.S. placed Cuba on the list. In 2015, President Barack Obama removed Cuba as he sought to improve diplomatic relations with the Island.

Cuba and the U.S. established diplomatic relations in 2015 under Obama. Biden was the vice-president at the time. The two nations took steps to normalization, easing the five-decade trade embargo.


During the Trump presidency, the door opened for lawsuits against companies under the Helms-Burton Title III legislation, prohibited remittances, cruises and direct flights, and educational trips.

The Cuban Response

The Cuban government condemned the designation, calling it hypocritical and fraudulent,

“MINREX condemns in the strongest and most absolute terms the fraudulent qualification of #Cuba as a state sponsor of terrorism, announced by the government of the U.S. in a cynical and hypocritical act.”

For decades, Cuba has been a victim of terrorism originating from the United States. U.S. terrorist acts against Cuba have resulted in 3,478 deaths and left 2,099 people with disabilities.

The fact that the U.S. found time to enact this measure is surprising considering the recent acts of terror by homegrown terrorists in Washington D.C.

The US Response

U.S. Senators including Senator Leahy, Amy Klobuchar, Ron Wyden, Chris Van Hollen, Jack Reed, Jeffrey A. Merkley, Sherrod Brown, Martin Heinrich, Tina Smith and Rep. Jim McGovern released statements opposed to the move by the State Department.

Senator Leahy issued a press release calling it a “mockery,” and that “domestic terrorism in the United States poses a far greater threat to Americans than Cuba…”

Ricardo Herrero, Executive Director of the Cuba Study Group tweeted, “There is no factual basis to re-list Cuba as a State Sponsor of Terror. This is a malicious, last-ditch effort to handicap Biden’s foreign policy, and reward MAGA supporters in Florida for sticking with Trump even after he incited terrorist attacks against the U.S. Congress.”

The Response from France

Pierre Lebret, Advocacy Officer and Head of the Research Center, Futur Au Présent International, called the action “shameful.”

Acknowledging Cuba’s acts of humanitarianism, especially during the current Covid pandemic, Lebret tweeted:

“While Cuba sends doctors around the world, and after Trump will unleash a wave of violence against the democracy of its own country, one of its last measures is to qualify the Caribbean country as a state sponsor of terrorism.”

The Response from China

Today, China criticized the move, urging the U.S. to improve relations with Cuba.

“We firmly oppose the U.S. imposing political suppression and launching economic sanctions on Cuba in the name of fighting terrorism,” Zhao Lijian Foreign Ministry spokesperson said a news briefing in Beijing. “We believe that the U.S. should develop normal state-to-state relations with Cuba on the basis of equality and mutual respect.”

Biden could move to take Cuba off the terrorist list, but it will take many months to reverse the move and restart U.S.-Cuba relations.

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