OFF THE LIST Remove Cuba from the State Sponsors of Terrorism list. Write to the US ambassador today.
Campaign News | Thursday, 26 October 2023
The Cuba Solidarity Campaign calls on members and supporters to take action to remove Cuba from the US State Sponsors of Terrorism (SSOT) list as part of an international campaign to reach one million signatures to pressure the US government.
Shortly after his election, President Trump launched a draconian policy of “maximum pressure” against Cuba. In less than four years he introduced 243 new sanctions and punitive measures – 90 of which cruelly came during the COVID-19 pandemic. But it was returning Cuba to the SSOT list which has had the most devastating consequences for the Cuban people.
Together with Iran, North Korea and Syria, Cuba is on a list designated by the US Secretary of State, which effectively means that the US Treasury can fine any individual or company that has financial dealings with those countries. Inclusion on the list bars Cuba from international banking transactions and makes it increasingly difficult to acquire basic necessities such as fuel, food, medicines and hygiene products. Forty-five international banks immediately terminated relations with Cuba when it was returned to the list.
Since 2021, as a result of this designation and the aftermath of the pandemic, Cubans have faced an increasingly dire economic situation. Food shortages, long queues, and a lack of medicines have pushed the country into the worst economic and humanitarian crisis it has faced in recent history.
In the UK, companies are unable, or too frightened, to trade or have any relations with Cuba. And this time around, inclusion on the list impacts foreign visitors to both the US and Cuba. From 21 January 2021, those wishing to visit the US after Cuba have found their route more complicated as the US now insists on a valid visa and face-to-face interview at a US consulate rather than an ESTA waiver available online.
Policy condemned by Colombia
When Cuba was added to the SSOT in January 2021, days before Trump stood down as president, then Secretary of State Mike Pompeo cited Cuba’s refusal to extradite members of the Colombian National Liberation Army (ELN) who had been in Cuba participating in internationally sponsored peace talks with the Colombian government.
Following his election in October 2022, newly elected Colombian President Gustavo Petro asked Secretary of State Antony Blinken to end the “injustice” of keeping Cuba on the list.
On a visit to Cuba in 2023, Colombian Vice President Francia Márquez said: “Cuba has played a transcendental role in the path to peace that we have initiated in our country. Cuba has been there for us, and it has paid a price for that... I think that it’s impossible to call a country that sponsors peace ‘terrorist.’ Without doubt, Cuba’s effort to build peace in Colombia is something that Colombians will always be thankful for.”
Consistent campaigning and lobbying
In 2021, CSC lobbied parliamentarians to sign Early Day Motion 1550 which described Trump’s decision to put Cuba back on the list as “a politically motivated move which intensifies sanctions against the Cuban people in the middle of a health pandemic.” It also called on the British government to encourage the Biden administration “to normalise relations by reversing the designation of Cuba as a state sponsor of terrorism and ending the blockade.”
The motion received support from MPs of numerous parties including Labour, Scottish National Party, Plaid Cymru, Green Party, SDLP and DUP, as well as several independent MPs.
Grahame Morris MP, chair of the All-Party Group on Cuba, also wrote to President Biden in May 2021 saying that Cuba’s “unjustified” place on the list took a severe toll on the livelihoods of ordinary Cubans.
Throughout 2022 and 2023 CSC organised numerous fringe meetings at labour movement conferences to draw attention to the injustice of Cuba’s inclusion on the list.
At the Labour Party conference in 2022 Paula Barker MP for Liverpool Riverside told delegates at CSC’s fringe meeting that being on the list “prevents banks and companies from trading with Cuba for fear of violating US sanctions and receiving fines,” and echoed the view that “it would be more accurate to describe Cuba as a state sponsor of peace given its historic role in hosting peace talks.”
Niurka González, General Secretary of Cuba’s teaching union (SNTECD), addressed more than 1,000 delegates at the National Education Union conference in Harrogate in April 2023: “Cuba is unjustifiably kept on a spurious list of countries that allegedly sponsor terrorism. This is an insult to the truth and an offence to Cuba, which is among the greatest victims of terrorism in the Western Hemisphere. This is a vile lie and baseless slander. Cuba has always had, and has, a recognised firm policy of rejection and persecution of any form or manifestation of terrorism. Notwithstanding Cuba’s impeccable record, it remains on the list,” she said.
In September 2023, CSC chair Kevin Courtney spoke passionately at CSC’s TUC Congress fringe meeting: “The USA has the temerity to accuse Cuba of terrorism… using that to tighten the blockade screws even further, and overriding the very slight moves made by Obama. What was the reason? Because there were ELN guerrillas in Havana. But why were they there? For peace talks with the Colombian government, supported by the Cuban and Norwegian governments. You really couldn’t make it up.”
Most recently, in October 2023, the Cuban ambassador Bárbara Montalvo Álvarez explained to Labour Party delegates how “inclusion on the SSOT list has severe consequences for the countryʼs economy” and was “extremely detrimental for obtaining credits and making payments for goods and inputs essential for the countryʼs development.”
“Due to the inclusion in this list, numerous companies and financial entities in the world have refused to operate with Cuba for fear of reprisals from the US government. Dozens of banks suspended their operations with the country, including transfers for the purchase of food, medicines, fuel, materials, parts and other goods,” she said.
In November 2023, the United Nations General Assembly will vote on Cuba’s annual resolution demanding an end to US sanctions. Over more than three decades of UN votes, the only two countries to have consistently opposed the motion are the US and Israel – most recently in the 30th vote in 2022 when the final count was 185 to 2.
At the time, Oxfam and a coalition of US NGOs called the Biden administration’s decision to defend this position at the UN “a shameful embarrassment.”