U.S. President Barack Obama’s decision to remove Cuba from the list of state sponsors of terrorism made headlines around the world, but not everyone knows how it landed there.
Cuba was named a state sponsor of terror in 1982 after the State Department determined that dictator Fidel Castro was arming and supporting rebels in American allied countries and also providing a safe haven for fugitives wanted in the U.S.
Officials’ determination that Cuban leader Fidel Castro was in violation of three American anti-terror laws led them to name the communist country to the list, which includes the likes of Iran and North Korea, according to NPR:
- Section 6j of the Export Administration Act of 1979
- Section 40 of the Arms Export Control Act
- Section 620 of the Foreign Assistance Act
This allowed the U.S. to enact crippling sanctions including bans on imports and exports, economic aid and other activities, further strengthening the Cuban embargo started in the 1960s by President John F. Kennedy.
A 2013 report from the State Department debunked earlier claims that Cuba armed separatists in Colombia and Spain but further reiterated its role in providing asylum to criminals who have fled U.S. courts.
The following wanted persons are believed to be hiding in Cuba, according to McClatchy and other sources:
- Puerto Rican nationalist William Morales was sentenced to 99 years in prison for a 1975 bomb blast that killed four people but fled to Cuba, via Mexico, after escaping a New York prison in 1979
- JoAnne Chesimard, a member of the Black Liberation Army granted asylum when she fled the U.S. after she broke out of the jail where she was sent for the 1973 murder of a New Jersey State Trooper
- Nehanda Abiodun, who the FBI believes aided Chesimard’s escape to Cuba, was granted asylum in 1990, according to the Washington Post
- Victor Manuel Gerena, who stole $US7 million — at the time, the largest cash robbery in U.S. history — from a Hartford Wells Fargo facility in 1983 and fled with the cash to Cuba, according to the Hartford Courant
Several other wanted fugitives including Black Panther Party members and those convicted of fraud have died in Cuba in recent years, according to reports.
Cuba has previously stated it would not return anyone granted asylum.
For its part, the island nation is seeking the return of one of its own — suspected terrorist Luis Posada Carriles, according to the Post.
Carriles has been living in Florida despite Cuba and Venezuela accusing him of plotting the 1976 bombing of a Cuban airliner that killed 73 people.
The island nation being removed from the terror sponsor list is no guarantee the embargo will be lifted, but it is a step in that direction.
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