Trump administration may place Cuba on terrorism list: report

Greg Nash

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is weighing whether to place Cuba on the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism, The New York Times reported on Tuesday. 

Two U.S. officials who spoke to the Times said that members of the State Department have drafted a proposal to designate Cuba as a state sponsor of terrorism, which Pompeo would have to sign off on with just three weeks left until President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration. 

The move — which the Times noted would serve as a “thank you” to Cuban Americans and other anti-communist Latinos in Florida who helped President Trump and other Republicans secure wins in the state — could also complicate the Biden administration’s plans to return to the normalization of relations instituted under former President Obama. 

While Biden could quickly move to remove Cuba from the list upon taking office, the Times reported that this could require a months-long formal review process. 

When contacted by The Hill, a State Department spokesperson said the agency does not “discuss deliberations or potential deliberations” on terrorism designations. 

The State Department defines a state sponsor of terrorism as a country that has “repeatedly provided support for acts of international terrorism.” 

States given this designation are subject to four main categories of sanctions: restrictions on U.S. foreign assistance, a ban on defense exports and sales, controls over exports of dual-use items and other financial restrictions. 

There are currently just three countries on the terrorism list: Iran, North Korea and Syria. 

The State Department removed Cuba from the list in 2015 under the Obama administration, normalizing relations between Washington and Havana for the first time since Cuba’s 1959 communist revolution. 

In 2016, Obama became the first U.S. president to visit the island nation since Calvin Coolidge. 

Cuba was first added to the terrorism list under the Reagan administration in 1982 following the country’s support for leftist insurgency groups throughout Latin America. 

However, U.S.-Cuba relations have grown increasingly tense under the Trump administration, with the State Department notifying Congress in May that Cuba was among the countries identified as “not cooperating fully” with U.S. counterterrorism efforts in 2019, marking the first year that Cuba had been certified as not fully cooperating since 2015.  

Throughout the 2020 election cycle, the Trump campaign mobilized fears among Cubans and others in Florida that Biden would not stand up to communism in Latin America, with Trump calling Obama’s agreement with Cuba “terrible and misguided.” 

Democrats on Tuesday condemned a potential state terrorism sponsor designation for Cuba, with Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-N.Y.), the newly elected chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, telling the Times that the move would be “another stunt by this president with less than 23 days to go.” 

“He’s trying to put handcuffs on the incoming administration,” Meeks added.

Tags Anti-communism Congress Cuba Cuba Cuba–United States relations Donald Trump Florida Gregory Meeks Iran Joe Biden Mike Pompeo New York Times North Korea Obama administration State Department State sponsor of terrorism list Syria
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