Cuba and the US terror lists

Since 1959, nearly 3,500 Cubans have been killed and 2,100 permanently maimed as a result of terrorism launched from the United States by groups with links to the US government. Not a single US citizen has been injured or killed by terrorism linked to revolutionary Cuba. The only Cuban terrorists are counter-revolutionaries recruited by the CIA. Most infamous among them is Luis Posada Carriles, who lives freely in Miami. President Obama has excelled in the US practice of state terror: through its occupying armies, support for dictators, rendition flights, torture of prisoners, forced feeding of hunger strikers in Guantanamo prison camp, drone-strike assassinations around the world and repression of internal dissent. Yet in the topsy turvy world of imperialism, the US labels socialist Cuba as a state sponsor of terrorism and points to black revolutionary Assata Shakur to prove it. Helen Yaffe reports.

The US began its list of ‘state sponsors of terrorism’ in 1979, adding Cuba in 1982, because, it said: ‘Havana openly advocates armed revolution as the only means for leftist forces to gain power in Latin America, and the Cubans have played an important role in facilitating the movement of men and weapons into the region.’ More recently, the US conceded that ‘the government of Cuba maintained a public stance against terrorism and terrorist financing’, but complained that revolutionaries from other armed struggles, in Colombia (FARC), the Basque Country (ETA) and the US (Assata Shakur), reside in Cuba. Basque ETA members are in Cuba through an agreement with the Spanish and Panamanian governments and Cuba is currently hosting peace talks between the FARC and the Colombian government. An increasing vociferous international campaign demands that Cuba be removed from the US list. However, on 1 May 2013, the US announced that Cuba would remain on the list of terror states. On 2 May, the FBI added Assata Shakur to another US list – ‘most wanted terrorists’. Since ‘Cuba refuses to support real terrorists, the FBI … has taken it upon itself to invent one!’ (Dawn Gable, www.havanatimes.org, 4 May 2013).

Assata Shakur – freedom fighter*

Assata Shakur is a black woman from the US; a fugitive from US injustice. She was a political activist in the 1960s and 1970s in community organisations, student and anti-war movements and then joined the Black Panther Party, helping to run free breakfast programmes for poor black children. In 1969, the then director of the FBI, J Edgar Hoover, stated: ‘The Black Panther Party, without question, represents the greatest threat to the internal security of the country’. He set out to destroy it, under a relentless FBI ‘counter-intelligence’ programme, COINTELPRO, to neutralise organisations challenging US racism and imperialism; using infiltration, misinformation, division, criminalisation and assassination. Following persecution, Assata went underground as a member of the Black Liberation Army. Assata was engaged in a liberation struggle against a racist, oppressive state which had declared war on radical activists. In one of her rare interviews, in Havana 1996, Assata told FRFI (http://tinyurl.com/bs455es): ‘In 1973 I was captured. I was shot, once with my hands in the air and once in the back. I was left to die. They kept coming back and saying ‘Is she dead yet? Is she dead yet?’ I was finally taken to hospital and kept for four days incommunicado, questioned, interrogated and tortured, even though I was paralysed.’ She was framed for the murder of the New Jersey State Trooper who was shot in the incident. The forensic evidence shows Assata was innocent.

Initially cleared in court of numerous false charges designed to criminalise her, Assata was finally sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of the state trooper. She escaped from prison in 1979 and arrived in Cuba in 1984. She explained: ‘I have admired Cuba since I was at college. I read everything about Cuba that I could get my hands on. So, when I escaped from prison, my first idea was Cuba…and, luckily, people here knew who I was and they gave me the status of a political refugee’ (FRFI 131). In 2005, with no new evidence or a retrial, the FBI recategorised Assata from criminal to domestic terrorist. It did so under the guise of the 2001 Patriot Act, which saw an unprecedented and sweeping expansion of state powers to spy, search, restrict free speech, arrest, incarcerate, interrogate, punish, deport, and withhold information. A $1 million reward was offered for her capture.

On 2 May 2013, the 40th anniversary of her capture, Assata was added to the top ten ‘most wanted terrorists’, a list created after 11 September 2001. She is the first woman and the only person of African descent on this list. The FBI’s website warns: ‘She may wear her hair in a variety of styles and dress in African tribal clothing.’ The bounty on her head has been doubled to $2 million; an invitation to any vigilante to capture her, dead or alive. It is from this list that the US picks targets for its extra-judicial assassinations overseas via drones and raids.

Although it is well known that Assata resides in Cuba, billboards have been erected in New Jersey State with Assata’s face and the words ‘WANTED: TERRORIST’. Less than three weeks after the Boston marathon bombings, ‘the FBI felt compelled to frame the domestic terrorism conversation around a black revolutionary living in Cuba, instead of two white men from Boston’ (Kirsten West Savali, Newsone.com). At a news conference on 2 May an FBI agent claimed Assata ‘is a supreme terror [sic] against the government who continues to give speeches espousing revolution and terrorism’. No evidence was or could be provided. Assata does not advocate terrorism. Fellow black activist Angela Davis said ‘certainly, Assata continues to advocate radical transformation of this country, as many of us do…That is why it seems to me that the attack on her reflects the logic of [the war on] terrorism, because it is precisely designed to frighten young people who are involved in the kind of activism that might lead to change.’ As examples she cites today’s struggles around ‘police violence, health care, education [and] people in prison’.

Cubans combating terrorism

The utter hypocrisy of the US’s ‘war on terrorism’ is exemplified in the case of the Cuban Five. In the 1990s more than 200 attacks of terrorism and sabotage against Cuba were launched from Miami. To defend Cuba from further attacks, five Cuban men risked their lives to infiltrate right-wing extremist exile groups in Miami, groups with well documented links to the US government. The Cuban Five had no guns or explosives. They were not after classified information or threatening US national security. In fact, in 1998, Cuba handed the FBI a mountain of evidence compiled by the Cuban agents from the terrorist networks. That information made it possible to prevent 170 attacks against Cuba, including a plan to blow up aeroplanes filled with Cuba-bound tourists from Europe and Canada. Instead of acting on the information to destroy the terrorist networks, the US authorities arrested, framed and incarcerated the Cuban agents. Their subsequent treatment, including many months of isolation and denial of family and legal visits, has constituted cruel and unusual punishment.

In October 2011, after 13 years of incarceration, one of the Five, Rene Gonzalez, was granted a three year ‘supervised release’ under life-threatening conditions: forced to remain in Miami in close proximity to the terrorists he had exposed. The conditions also prohibited Rene ‘from associating with or visiting specific places where individuals or groups such as terrorists, members of organizations advocating violence, organized crime figures are known to be or frequent.’ In other words, the court could identify where terrorists and criminals hang out in Miami, but rather than arrest and try them, it warned Rene not to disturb them. So much for the war on terrorism!

Among Miami’s terrorist population is Cuban exile Luis Posada Carriles, a self-confessed terrorist and ex-CIA operative, involved over decades in terrorist activities throughout the Americas. Posada’s bloody record includes the mid-air bombing of a Cuban civilian aeroplane in 1976, killing all 73 people aboard, bombing hotels and restaurants in Havana in 1997 and attempting to assassinate Fidel Castro at the University of Panama in 2000. Carriles does not appear on the list of ‘most wanted terrorists’ and has merely been charged, and then acquitted, of lying during an immigration hearing.

Finally, on 3 May 2013, a US judge granted Rene Gonzalez the right to serve the remainder of his supervised release in Cuba. This is a victory for the international campaign to free the Cuban Five anti-terrorists, the other four of whom remain incarcerated.

* See Assata: an Autobiography, Assata Shakur, Lawrence Hill Books, 2001.

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 233 June/July 2013

 

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