The Cable

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Rubio: Cuba belongs on the ‘state sponsors of terrorism’ list

In the face of mounting calls to remove Cuba from the State Department’s list of state sponsors of terrorism, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FLA) defended Foggy Bottom’s recent decision to keep Cuba on the list, in a statement to The Cable. "The Castro regime sponsors terrorism abroad and against their own people, and removing a country ...

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WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 22: U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) talks to reporters on Capitol Hill March 22, 2013 in Washington, DC. The Senate is scheduled to vote on amendments to the budget resolution on Friday afternoon and into the evening. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

In the face of mounting calls to remove Cuba from the State Department's list of state sponsors of terrorism, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FLA) defended Foggy Bottom's recent decision to keep Cuba on the list, in a statement to The Cable.

"The Castro regime sponsors terrorism abroad and against their own people, and removing a country from the list of nations that sponsor terrorism requires evidence of reform," Rubio said. "We have not seen such evidence in Cuba."

In its annual Country Reports on Terrorism released last week, the State Department acknowledged that some conditions on the island were improving, but maintained three reasons for keeping Cuba on the list: Providing a safe haven for some two dozen members of Basque Fatherland and Liberty (ETA), a Spanish rebel group charged with terrorist activity; providing aid to Colombia's rebel group the FARC "in past years" -- Cuba no longer supports the group today; and providing harbor to "fugitives wanted in the United States."

In the face of mounting calls to remove Cuba from the State Department’s list of state sponsors of terrorism, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FLA) defended Foggy Bottom’s recent decision to keep Cuba on the list, in a statement to The Cable.

"The Castro regime sponsors terrorism abroad and against their own people, and removing a country from the list of nations that sponsor terrorism requires evidence of reform," Rubio said. "We have not seen such evidence in Cuba."

In its annual Country Reports on Terrorism released last week, the State Department acknowledged that some conditions on the island were improving, but maintained three reasons for keeping Cuba on the list: Providing a safe haven for some two dozen members of Basque Fatherland and Liberty (ETA), a Spanish rebel group charged with terrorist activity; providing aid to Colombia’s rebel group the FARC "in past years" — Cuba no longer supports the group today; and providing harbor to "fugitives wanted in the United States."

"It remains clear that Cuba is the same totalitarian state today that it has been for decades," Rubio told The Cable. "This totalitarian state continues to have close ties to terrorist organizations."

Critics allege that State’s rationale for keeping Cuba on the list is increasingly thin and say the island nation shares little in common with the list’s other members: Iran, Syria, and Sudan or those that didn’t make the list, and arguably should, such as North Korea and Pakistan. They also latched on to a line in the report that says: "There was no indication that the Cuban government provided weapons or paramilitary training to terrorist groups."

"The report makes it clear that the State Department doesn’t really believe that Cuba is a state sponsor of terrorism," said Geoff Thale, program director at the left-leaning advocacy group Washington Office on Latin America. "Cuba is clearly on the terrorist list for political reasons."

Cuba has been under a U.S. economic embargo since 1962, which is supported by a small but vocal community of former Cuban citizens in Florida, and a number of members of Congress on both sides of the aisle, such as Senate Foreign Relations Chairman and Cuban-American Robert Menendez (D-NJ), who declined to comment to The Cable.

Earlier this year, the Boston Globe reported that Secretary of State John Kerry, who has criticized travel restrictions to Cuba in the past, was considering removing Cuba from the list, but ultimately opted not to change the policy.

Rubio made it clear that he supports a hard-line on Cuba, and opposes administration efforts to move too quickly on the issue.

"The Obama administration should abandon considering unilateral concessions to the Cuban regime," he told The Cable. "An American development worker Alan Gross remains hostage and only cosmetic reforms have taken place, while nothing has been done to give the Cuban people greater freedoms."

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