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Marco Rubio tells John Kerry not to take Cuba off state sponsor of terrorism list

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There are 196 nations on earth, yet the U.S. State Department only lists four: Iran, Sudan, Syria and Cuba. (Saudi Arabia didn’t make the list.)

Getting removed off that list is a huge issue for the Cuban government, since all banks that engage with them are subject to U.S. screenings to ensure that terrorist money doesn’t enter the U.S. And it’s one of the biggest issues for the Cuban government as it resumes diplomatic relations with the U.S.

Which is why Marco Rubio says it must not happen.

In a letter sent to Secretary of State John Kerry today, the Florida senator highlights the case of Joanne Chesimard, who remains on the FBI’s Most Wanted list and has been openly harbored by the Castro regime, as a reason why the U.S. must not drop Cuba from its list of state sponsors of terrorism. He also says it continues to support groups like the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the Basque Fatherland and Liberty (ETA).

“I am greatly disturbed by recent media reports that you are considering recommending to the President that he de-list Cuba from the State Sponsor of Terrorism List (SSTL),” Rubio writes. “I believe that there should be no consideration of such a step while Cuba still harbors fugitives labeled ‘terrorists’ by the FBI, provides support and safe harbor to members of terrorist groups like the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the Basque Fatherland and Liberty (ETA) and continues to flout international norms with respect to weapons smuggling and an ongoing relationship with North Korea.”

But in its 2013 Report on Terrorism, the State Department admitted that Cuba’s links to ETA have become more distant, and that Cuba has supported and hosted negotiations between the FARC and Colombia aimed at brokering a peace agreement between the two nations. And it wrote that the government of Cuba “has facilitated the travel of FARC representatives to Cuba to participate in these negotiations, in coordination with representatives of the Governments of Colombia, Venezuela, and Norway, as well as the Red Cross.”

And it reported that “There was no indication that the Cuban government provided weapons or paramilitary training to terrorist groups.”

If the recommendation is to remove Cuba from the list, the president would have to submit a report to Congress 45 days before the new decision would take effect. The report would have to ensure that Cuba had not provided any support for international terrorism in the preceding six months, and then offer guarantees that it would not do so in the future.

Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at mitch.perry@floridapolitics.com.

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