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by: jmhumire 0 Comments

SFS Panel and Reception for Cuba: Off the List?

On Wednesday, February 25, SFS hosted a policy roundtable regarding the U.S. State Department’s sixth month review to determine whether Cuba should remain on the list of state sponsors of terrorism. The list currently includes Iran, Syria, Sudan, and Cuba. In an effort to normalize relations between Cuba and the United States, Cuba requested removal from  the list citing that it hampers normalization efforts.  Our panelists included former Assistant Director of FBI’s Office of International Operations, Thomas Fuentes, Associate at Vision Americas and former U.S. State Department official, José Cardenas, SFS senior fellow Fernando Menéndez, with VOA’s Foro Interamericano host, Patricia Dalmasy, as the moderator.

Mr. Cardenas described the difficulty in accessing non-open source information. Without having access to U.S. intelligence, as well as intelligence from other countries, it is extremely hard to make any certain conclusions regarding Cuba’s activities over the past few decades. What we can uncover are Cuba’s unsavory alliances with Venezuela, Iran and other countries, as well as non-state actors hostile to  U.S. interests. For example, Cuba is the only country in the western hemisphere that has refused to sign international agreements protecting human rights. This shows a direct failure in the standard of human development. For decades, when a country is removed from the state sponsor of terrorism list, they have made significant improvements to highlight their forward advancement. Cuba, on the other hand, has done nothing to show that they deserve to be taken off of the list. Supporting Iran’s nuclear policy, interfering in the United Nations on behalf of Syria and its failure to renounce their current allegiances all show the lack of effort that Cuba has put into normalizing relations with the U.S.

Mr.  Menéndez took a different look at the normalization of relations with Cuba. According to him, there has been a continual process to move toward Cuba over the last decades. He explained he cannot foresee Cuba staying on the state sponsors of terrorism list, purely for political reasons. This move allows the U.S. to develop a presence in Latin America and influence the future generations in Cuba. Due to the disappearance of the historical leadership and our lack of public access to information, the U.S. must be cautious in their advancement. Cuba is in a vulnerable position in regarding recent economic changes, the rising, new generations, and in their relationship with Venezuela. Cuba is looking for new dependency as Venezuela’s untenable future hangs in the balance. From their perspective, the U.S. can supply them with oil and a greater profit in the tourism industry. What we fail to see is that this jumpstart to the Cuban economy is not passed on to the Cuban people; instead it is passed on to the Cuban military.

Thomas Fuentes closed out the opening remarks with his analysis of the inconsistent U.S. foreign policy. He compared the U.S. treatment of Cuba to U.S. relations with China. “The U.S. no longer has friends, only interests”, cited  Mr. Fuentes. We are willing to overlook what goes on in places, such as China, if we have extensive interests there. China, a  communist country like Cuba, is more acceptable to the U.S. due to its economic size. In the global economy, the U.S. finds themselves advocating on behalf of foreign countries in order to have continual economic stability. Regarding Cuba, our country’s policy has failed to help improve the economy and livelihood of the Cuban people. Mr. Fuentes concluded that “engagement is usually better than isolation”.  

After our panelists spoke, there was a brief question and answer session followed by a reception. Guests and speakers were able to continue their thoughts and ideas throughout the evening. We thank our panelists and all of our guests for attending and contributing to the open discussion.

Listen to the Cuba: Off the List policy roundtable discussion on our soundcloud.

Related content:


The Cuban Revolution Is Dead: Time To Lift The Embargo


To read and watch, SFS Senior Fellow, Fernando Menéndez’ testimony regarding Cuba please visit the website of U.S. House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere

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