By Mary Anastasia O’Grady
MIAMI – Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi welcomes Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel during a ceremony at the presidential palace in Tehran, Dec. 4, 2023. Photo: Iranian Presidency/
The U.S. redesignation of the Houthis as a foreign terrorist organization corrects a policy error of February 2021, when the Yemen-based group was removed from Washington’s official list. Cuba’s been on the list of state sponsors of terrorism, along with Iran, North Korea and Syria, since 2021. This was reaffirmed in May by the State Department. That too is the right call.
The December arrest of retired U.S. Ambassador Victor Manuel Rocha on Justice Department charges of acting as an agent for Cuba for 40 years isn’t warmed-over Cold War stuff. It’s a reminder that after 65 years in power, with its economy in shambles, Havana remains a clear and present danger to U.S. national security. By embedding spies inside U.S. officialdom, Cuba makes its alliances with terrorists all the more treacherous. Covert Cuban agents traffic in stolen intelligence, spot recruits, blow covers and act to influence U.S. policy.
The terrorist tag makes it harder for Cuba to run its criminal enterprises because it raises the odds that financial, investment or trade transactions that violate U.S. economic sanctions will be flagged. It also increases Havana’s vulnerability to lawsuits in U.S. courts for extrajudicial killings and makes it harder for the regime to pass itself off as a normal country.
Cuba is a state sponsor of terrorism. It harbors fugitives from American justice and Latin American guerrillas who have committed crimes against humanity. It has supported repression in Venezuela for more than two decades.
There’s also a scarier list of global actors with which Cuba, with its advantage of proximity to the U.S., engages. China, Russia and Iran, all of which use violence against civilian populations, have sunk their claws into the Americas with help from Cuba.
In 2013 the Kremlin forgave Cuba some $35 billion in Soviet-era debt. Economic and military cooperation followed. While Vladimir Putin is slaughtering civilians in Ukraine, his navy uses Cuban ports to resupply. Since 2014 a Russian spy ship docks in Havana once a year.
Cuban dictator Miguel Díaz-Canel met with China’s Xi Jinping on the sidelines of a multilateral summit in Johannesburg in August. The Chinese Foreign Ministry released a celebratory report about the many promises of mutual cooperation made by its Cuban “comrade.” In December Mr. Díaz-Canel met in Tehran with Iranian strongman Ebrahim Raisi to discuss bilateral collaboration.
The Cuban menace doesn’t end there. The regime barters with any state actor willing to pay cash in exchange for its human trafficking of doctors and nurses. Cuba also does business with anyone who can deliver votes at the United Nations. Nonstate actors trafficking in narcotics find willing partners among the money-grubbing Havana elite.
After more than 30 years designated as a state sponsor of terrorism, the regime was taken off the list in 2015 by President Obama. Cuba’s goal remained, as it has since 1959, to harm the U.S. but Mr. Obama wanted to make history by re-engaging with Havana. He was probably helped by the lingering influence of Defense Intelligence Agency Cuba analyst Ana Belen Montes, who worked inside the Pentagon from 1985 until her arrest in September 2001 for spying for the dictatorship. She pleaded guilty in 2002 and was sentenced to 25 years in prison.
During her long tenure at the Pentagon, Ms. Montes became the ruling Cuba analyst and was known to belittle anyone who challenged her views. The Defense Department inspector general’s damage assessment report of January 2005 was never made public. But it can be no accident that with Ms. Montes as the go-to expert, high-ranking U.S. military and civilians internalized the claim that Havana posed no threat to national security.
Mr. Rocha is innocent until proven guilty. He hasn’t been arraigned. But the Justice Department complaint alleges that he worked as an agent for Cuba from 1981 to the present. He served at the State Department (1981-2002) with a stint at the National Security Council (1994-95). He was U.S. ambassador to Bolivia from (2000-02). From 2006-12 he was an adviser to the commander of U.S. Southern Command.
In January 2007 Miami-based media executive Miguel Cossio interviewed Mr. Rocha, who said that in Washington there was a belief that when Fidel died, Raúl Castro would be needed to ensure stability. “There is only one threat from Cuba to the national security of the United States: that control of the internal situation is lost and an exodus occurs. The only way for Cubans to stay there is for there to be a strong government,” Mr. Rocha told Mr. Cossio. “That is the government of Raúl Castro.” Then, as now, Cuba was using migration as a weapon.
Americans are unlikely ever to see the government’s damage assessment report on Mr. Rocha. But Havana’s alliances with terrorist regimes are in the public domain. Draw your own conclusions.
Write to O’Grady@wsj.com.
Mary Anastasia O’Grady is an Opinion Columnist, writes «The Americas,» a weekly column on politics, economics and business in Latin America and Canada that appears every Monday in the Journal. Ms. O’Grady joined the paper in August 1995 and became a senior editorial page writer in December 1999. She was appointed an editorial board member in November 2005. She is also a member of the board of directors of the Indianapolis-based Liberty Fund. EnergiesNet.com does not necessarily share these views.
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EnergiesNet.com 01 22 2024