THE CUBAN AMERICAN NATIONAL FOUNDATION recently published Cuba: Assessing the Threat to U.S. Security, a collection of essays on several topics regarding Communist Cuba’s sponsorship of terrorism.
Maria C. Werlau contributed two essays to this volume: "Does Cuba Have Biochemical Weapons?" and "Cuba: Safe Haven for Fugitives and Hotbed for Terrorists." Ms. Werlau is President of Orbis International Consulting and has recently launched the Free Society Project, Inc., a non-profit organization that will archive the loss of life during the Cuban Revolution.
Myles Kantor: Fidel Castro is often perceived as an idiosyncratic head of state, even a nuisance, but not a menace. Is Castro really a threat to America?
Maria Werlau: Those familiar with the true nature of the Castro regime would not describe Fidel Castro as merely "idiosyncratic." Unfortunately many people choose not to know the truth, preferring to see it with an unsubstantiated, even irresponsible, romanticism.
Fidel Castro’s virulent hatred of the United States goes back far before he even came to power. Anyone who follows the news from Cuba is aware of how regularly and consistently he’s proclaimed it himself—of course, only when he’s not manipulating uncritical, misinformed Members of Congress whom Castro wines and dines into believing he can be "reasonable." Castro, a student of Lenin and Gramsci, is a masterful prevaricator, who’s always known how easy it is to fool the Capitalists into hanging themselves with their own rope!
Castro’s Cuba is known to have trained thousands of guerillas and terrorists from all over the world. Plus, it is amply documented to have sponsored subversion and terrorism in most democratic nations of this hemisphere, including the United States, and as far away as the Middle East and Africa. Its ties to terrorist groups and states continue in the present and have caused thousands of deaths worldwide.
Cuba continues to harbor dozens of fugitives from U.S. justice—including Puerto Rican terrorists, who killed Americans and stole millions in a Connecticut heist, ETA [Basque Fatherland and Liberty] terrorists sought by Spain and IRA [Irish Republican Army] operatives apprehended in Colombia just last August after training FARC [Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia] narcoterrorists in explosives and urban guerilla tactics.
Just last month, Fidel Castro hosted a four-day meeting in Havana of the Sao Paolo Forum, an organization formed under his leadership to spread Marxism worldwide. Representatives from a number of terrorist groups attended the meeting, which called to unite efforts against U.S. and capitalist influence around the world, and viciously attacked the military campaign in Afghanistan. In May of last year Fidel Castro had visited Iran, Libya and Syria—other designated state sponsors of terrorism—where he gloated that the United States was weak and would soon be brought to its knees.
Above all, Castro has been consistent. The U.S. Senate’s Judiciary Committee reported that the Tricontinental Conference of African, Asian and Latin American Peoples, held in Havana in 1966, sought to "coordinate subversion and guerrilla activity on a worldwide basis" which had already been underway and warned of the "immediate and massive intensification of terrorism and guerrilla activity throughout the Americas, as well as in Asia and Africa." Conference participants were reported to have "designated United States ‘imperialism’ as enemy number one in every continent."
Myles Kantor: Some contend that Communist Cuba's inclusion on the U.S. State Department list of terrorist sponsors is inappropriate. Is its removal justified?
Maria Werlau: For Cuba to be considered for removal from the state sponsors’ terrorist list it should first meet some minimal conditions. For example, Ambassador Dennis Hays, Executive Vice President of the Cuban American National Foundation, enumerated some of these conditions in his October 2001 Response to the Center for International Policy, "Castro's Cuba: Continuing Sponsor of Terrorism":
1. Renounce unequivocally terrorism and "revolutionary" violence.
2. Sever all ties with the ETA, FARC, ELN [National Liberation Army of Colombia], IRA, and other terrorist organizations.
3. Provide complete, timely, and actionable information on its past and present terrorist links with rogue nations and narco-terrorist groups.
4. Extradite terrorists and criminals to the nations seeking them, such as the United States and Spain.
5. Open all its biotechnology laboratories to full, unannounced, international inspection.
6. Prosecute officials responsible for the deaths of innocent civilians such as in the 1996 Brothers to the Rescue shoot down and 1994 "13 de Marzo" tugboat cases.
To this list, I’d add seventh and eighth conditions:
7. To hand over to U.S. justice the Cuban government officials, or any other Cuban citizens, indicted for drug trafficking in the United States.
8. Condemn Bin Laden and Al Quaeda.
Myles Kantor: How would you assess Communist Cuba's threat to America relative to other state sponsors of terrorism such as Iraq and Libya?
Maria Werlau: Cuba should be assessed with a unique set of circumstances in mind. To begin with, there is strong indication that Cuba has an offensive biochemical weapons program—weapons it already used in Angola—and it is only 90 miles away from U.S. shores. In addition there is now ample and recent information of the effective penetration of the United States by a vast network of Cuban spies, who’ve monitored the activities and personnel at U.S. bases. They even managed to penetrate the Defense Department, where the Senior Cuba analyst [Ana Belen Montes] was accused of spying for Cuba in late September and awaits trial. These overtly hostile activities together with Cuba’s potential to cause great harm through asymmetrical means should be taken very seriously by our government.
Myles Kantor: After reading your essay, "Cuba: Safe Haven for Fugitives and Hotbed for Terrorists," it seems like Cuba is the place to go if you're an American cop-killer on the lam or a Marxist terrorist looking for training.
Maria Werlau: Yes, Cuba is a place to go if you hate the United States or have committed a crime. Reportedly there are over 70 fugitives from U.S. justice sought by the FBI for federal crimes—cop killers, terrorists, plane hijackers, bank robbers, embezzlers, and the sort. The irony, however, is that life is not always easy for these people. Castro is quick to use up every piece of propaganda value from these individuals, but most of them are then left to live the life of an ordinary Cuban—not an attractive proposition in a bankrupt, rationed society. Moreover, where the average Cuban can dream of fleeing the country, the criminals are stuck with nowhere to go!
Myles Kantor: Given the reality of the Castro regime, how should the Bush Administration respond?
Maria Werlau: President Bush has made very clear where our country stands in the war on terrorism: "If anybody harbors a terrorist, they're a terrorist…If they fund a terrorist, they're a terrorist. If they house terrorists, they're terrorists. …If they develop weapons of mass destruction that will be used to terrorize nations, they will be held accountable."
Fidel Castro, as I said before, has always been consistent. He takes advantage of perceived weakness and ultimately only responds to strength. The Bush Administration should exert maximum pressure on the Castro regime to guarantee U.S. and hemispheric security, holding Castro accountable not for empty promises, but in actions. Aside from some specific conditions I enumerated before, we should recognize that, ultimately, the way to guarantee our security is for the Cuban people to attain the freedoms they deserve and for Cuba to join the community of democratic nations where a rule of law can prevail.