Although President Barack Obama removed Cuba in 2015 from the U.S. State Department list of countries supporting terrorism, and President Trump included it again in 2020, the Cuban regime continues to collaborate with terrorist groups and countries, and harbors U.S., Spanish, and Colombian terrorists in the island.

Iran, Cuba, and Venezuela have developed a close and cooperative relationship against the U.S. and in support of terrorist groups and states. The three regimes increasingly coordinate their policies and resources in a three-way partnership aimed at counteracting and circumventing U.S. policies in the Middle East and Latin America. Within this relationship, Cuba plays a strategic role in terms of geography (proximity to the U.S.), intelligence gathering (both electronic eavesdropping and human espionage) logistics, and training.

In addition to its proven technical prowess to interfere and intercept U.S. telecommunications, Cuba has deployed around the world a highly effective human intelligence network. The type of espionage carried out by Ana Belén Montes, the senior U.S. defense intelligence analyst who spied for Cuba during some 16 years until her arrest in 2001, has enabled the Cuban regime to amass a wealth of intelligence on U.S. vulnerabilities as well as a keen understanding of the inner-workings of the U.S. security system.

Such information and analysis are being provided to strategic allies like Iran. While one may argue that factors such as Iran’s limited military capabilities and sheer distance diminish any conventional concerns, one should expect that Tehran, in case of a U.S.-Iran conflict, would launch an asymmetrical offensive against the U.S. and its European allies through surrogate terrorist states and paramilitary organizations. In such a scenario, Cuban intelligence would be invaluable to Iran and its proxies, and Cuban territory could be used by terrorist groups to launch operations against the U.S.

Following is recent evidence of Cuba’s involvement with terrorism:

  • Cuba directly and through Venezuela continues to provide intelligence to Hamas and Hezbollah.
  • Hezbollah, on orders from Hasan Nasrallah, set up an operational base in Cuba.
  • Working in coordination with the Cuban government, Venezuela is promoting Hezbollah and Iranian targets in South America and against the U.S. They fundraise for Hezbollah, facilitate travel for Hezbollah activists to Venezuela, and through Venezuela to other countries. This is all part of the strategic alliance between Venezuela, Cuba, and Iran.
  • Cuban military officers are acting as liaison between Venezuelan military and the narco-guerrillas of the Colombian FARC. Cuban General Leonardo Ramon Andollo, Chief of Operations of the Cuban MINFAR (Ministry of the Armed Forces), has visited Venezuela several times and acted as a go between the Cuban and Venezuelan military involved in drug trafficking.
  • The FBI estimates that Cuba has provided safe harbor to dozens of fugitives from U.S. justice who live on the island under the protection of the Cuban regime. Some of these fugitives are charged with or have been convicted of murder, kidnapping, and hijacking, and they include notorious killers of police officers in New Jersey and New Mexico, most prominent among them Joanne Chesimard (Assata Shakur), placed by the FBI in 2013 on the “Most Wanted Terrorist List.” The FBI is offering millions of dollars for information leading to her apprehension.
  • Other terrorists fugitives of the U.S. living in Cuba include Ishmael LaBeet, one of the five men convicted of the infamous Fountain Valley Massacre, a racially tinged 1972-armed robbery in the Virgin Islands that turned into mass murder, with eight dead. Guillermo Morales, the master bomb-maker of the Puerto Rican separatist group FALN (Fuerzas Armadas de Liberación Nacional), which set off 140 or so explosions around the United States during the 1970s and 1980s, killing at least six people. Victor Gerena, an armed robber working for another Puerto Rican separatist group, who is believed to have taken the proceeds of a $7 million heist to Cuba with him. Charles Hill who in 1971 hijacked a civilian plane carrying 49 passengers and fled to Cuba. Hill is also wanted for the 1971 murder of New Mexico State Police officer Robert Rosenbloom. Others include William Lee Brent, William Potts, and Ronald Labeet, all wanted in the U.S.
  • Current and former Spanish members of Basque Fatherland and Liberty (ETA), a Basque terrorist organization continue to reside in Cuba. While some of these terrorists are on the island as part of an accord between the Cuban and Spanish governments, others are hiding in Cuba, fugitives of Spanish justice. ETA terrorist, Jose Angel Urtiaga Martinez, has lived in Cuba since the 1980s and is wanted by Spanish Justice. In addition, there are about a dozen other ETA members living in Cuba.
  • Former Cuban intelligence official, Uberto Mario, has described how the Cuban regime trained Venezuelan “Tupamaros,” pro-Maduro groups who violently attack Venezuelan students.
  • “Hezbollah in Cuba,” the Hamas-funded Turkish “charity” known as IHH continues to operate in Havana. IHH is a member of the “Union of Good,” an umbrella organization that financially supports Hamas.
  • Managed by Cubans and Venezuelans sympathetic to Cuba, Venezuela’s immigration system, “Misión Identidad,” facilitates the entry of Cuban agents into Venezuela. Cubans also control SIME (Servicio de Identificacion, Migracion y Extranjeria, Caracas) which facilitates the travel of drug organizations, Colombian guerrillas, and Islamist terrorists. Cuba also has on the island duplicate Venezuelan forms and stamps to issue passports and identifications to these groups.
  • Warranting special mention are the outstanding U.S. indictments against Cuban Air Force pilots and General Rubén Martínez Puente, the head of the Cuban Air Force, who in 1996 shot down two unarmed civilian American aircraft over international waters in the Florida Straits. That act of terrorism, ordered by Fidel and Raul Castro, killed four men, three of them American citizens. The Castro brothers personally accepted responsibility for the shot-down.
  • In 2013 “Prensa Islamica” published an article on Cuba-Iran growing relationship. The article explains that Cuba has shared with Iran its “vast knowledge on intelligence” and has discussed cooperation “on electromagnetic weapons capable of sabotaging enemy communications.”
  • In January 2019, Colombia’s President asked Cuba to extradite several leaders of Colombian terrorist group Ejército de Liberación Nacional (ELN). Yet Cuba refuses. Living in the island are a) Nicolas Rodríguez, aka Gabino; b) Israel Ramírez Pineda aka Pablo Beltrán; c) Victor Orlando Cubides, aka Aureliano Carbonell.  There are also three female members of the ELN in Cuba: Consuelo Tapias, Isabel Torres, and Luz Amanda Pallares, aka Silvana Guerrero.
  • Other leaders of the Colombian terrorist group, Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia, FARC have used Cubas as temporary safe heaven. They include Ivan Marquez and Rodrigo Londoño Echeverry, aka Timochenko.
  • The electro-magnetic cyber-attacks against U.S. and Canadian diplomats in Havana that harmed a number of them, is still an unresolved issue.

In an attempt to obtain unilateral concessions from the U.S., the Cuban regime has toned down some of its violent anti-U.S. propaganda of Fidel and Raul. Yet their commitment to and interrelationships with anti-American terrorist groups have not disappeared. They have taken a more sophisticated approach; many times, using proxies such as Venezuelan supporters.

* Cuban Studies Institute Staff Report.  Foreign intelligence services provided information for this report.

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