Amid the soaring tensions between Washington and Havana, a senior Trump administration official reportedly said that the U.S is considering returning Cuba to its list of a state sponsor of terrorism. While speaking to an international media outlet, the official said that there is a ‘convincing case’ that Cuba should be placed back on the U.S blacklist as it is continuing to back the socialist Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and giving refuge to the leaders of Colombia’s ELN rebel group.
The official also said that a decision on Cuba’s re-listing might come to be the end of the year. The statement of the senior Trump administration official comes after the U.S government on May 13 said that it had put the Communist-ruled island back on a separate list of countries that do not cooperate fully with its efforts to counter-terrorism.
However, Havana, which has long denied any link to terrorism, reportedly dismissed the U.S state department announcement as ‘suspicious’. If the US designates Cuba as a state sponsor of terrorism, Cuba will be placed in the company of Iran, North Korea, Syria and Sudan. The U.S also carries the potential for sanctions and trade restrictions and blacklisting the island would further rollback the detente that former U.S President Barack Obama orchestrated between the old Cold War foes.
While Obama’s decision to formally remove Cuba from the terrorism list in 2015 was an important step towards restoring diplomatic ties, Trump’s toughened stance has gone down well in the large Cuban-American community in South Florida.
Meanwhile, it is reportedly believed that any decision to put Cuba on the list would take into account Havana’s support for Maduro, whose 2018 re-election was also considered a sham by most Western countries. The U.S-government reportedly also indicated him and much of his inner circle in March on charges of ‘narco-terrorism’ conspiracy, corruption and drug trafficking.
US considering to designate Venezuela’s services as terrorist organisations
Moreover, while speaking to the media outlet, the official reportedly said that the U.S government was also considering designating several of Venezuela’s services as terrorist organisations as they believe that they had alleged links to drug trafficking.
The deliberations on whether to re-list Cuba are reportedly focused heavily on legal questions required to justify naming a country a sponsor of terrorism. The official said that the figuring into the discussions is also Cuba’s refusal of Colombia’s request to extradite ELN leaders after the group claimed responsibility for an attack at a Bogota police academy in January 2019 that killed 22.
According to an international media outlet, the re-listing of Cuba would have heavy symbolic meaning for Havana, which had chafed for decades under the U.S designation. Although it is still unclear, however, if re-listed the designation carries a prohibition on U.S. economic aid, a ban on U.S. arms exports, controls on ‘dual-use’ items with military and civilian applications, and a requirement that the U.S oppose loans to Cuba by international financial institutions such as the World Bank and International Monetary Fund.