June 29, 2005 Senior Fellow Wayne
S. Smith met with the president of the Cuban National
Assembly, Ricardo Alarcón, in Havana, Cuba to discuss
Cuba and terrorism. Below is a summary of the interview.
(left) and Alarcón (right) in Havana, Cuba
The US State Department, and specifically John Bolton, has
said that Cuba embraces terrorism as a public policy. Does
Cuba endorse terrorism?
This question is actually one of the reasons why Bolton
lacks credibility, because while Cuba is on the US list
of terrorist states, Cuba has been, and continues to be,
a victim of terrorism and there exists a history of acts
against us that have been tolerated by US authorities. Moreover,
Bolton cannot quote a single statement of terrorism committed
What measures has Cuba taken to demonstrate its opposition
Cuba has signed and ratified all UN and international treaties
that regulate terrorism. Most importantly, Cuba cooperated
with the UN Security Council with Resolution 1373, which
was passed on September 28th, 2001 - just a few weeks after
9/11. Resolution 1373, drafted and introduced by the US,
outlined steps to be taken to fight terror, including the
need to develop bilateral and regional agreements. Cuba
made specific proposals for a bilateral agreement to combat
terrorism and human smuggling; however, the US was not interested
in negotiating with Cuba - not even to fight terrorism.
This is in clear violation of their own resolution and other
there is the case of Luis Posada Carriles, who is accused
of masterminding the destruction of a Cuban civilian airline
in 1976. Twenty years ago, following his escape from a detention
facility in Venezuela, the Venezuelan court declared him
a fugitive and asked for his return. In fact, Article 7
of the Montreal Convention of 1971 establishes a rule that
when a person is found in a country and is asked to be extradited
by another country because he is accused of involvement
in an attack against a civilian aircraft, the second country
is obligated to extradite him. If there is no extradition,
there is one alternative: that country, without exception,
must try that person there, as if the alleged person had
committed the crime there.
has been in the US since March, and according to The Miami
Herald, nobody was after him until May, when he was finally
detained following a well-publicized press conference. He
still has not been presented to a court of law to determine
his possible extradition to Venezuela. Further, the administration
has created another obstacle by arbitrarily considering
his case as an illegal entry violation, which is a minor
crime compared to the violation of Resolution 1373. What
is the state of health of Resolution 1373 if its creator
does not abide by it?
If the US extradites Posada to Venezuela, will the Venezuelans
send him to Cuba?
We do not want him to be sent to Cuba. Venezuela has been
asking for him since 1985. The crime has many complexities:
Posada is a Venezuelan citizen, the plane was Cuban, the
victims were Cuban, Guyanese, and Korean, and the plane
crashed in Barbadian waters. When one of the co-authors
of the explosion placed a phone call following his arrest,
the number was for Luis Posada in Caracas, where Posada
was later arrested. In sum, the Venezuelan ties to the case
are clear and the trial should be held there.
1373 specifically states that in an extradition case for
an alleged terrorist, political arguments will not by admitted
by the state to whom the extradition case has been submitted.
The US is in direct violation of this by refusing the Venezuelan
request. What many Americans do not realize is that it is
not Chavez who is asking for Posada; it is the Venezuelan
Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which is taking these proper
steps, just as it did 20 years ago. In a recent poll in
Venezuela, Chavez had 60% favorable support for his policies.
But on the matter of Luis Posada, Chavez has the agreement
of more than 92% of the population. This is not a matter
of left or right - it is an issue of the entire Caribbean
community. This was the first major terrorist action in
the entire Caribbean and was a real shock to everyone. The
US is under a distinct obligation to take the appropriate
legal actions, unless it chooses the third alternative,
which is to destroy the conventions altogether. It is the
strong preference of Venezuela, Cuba, and the Caribbean
nations that Posada be extradited and the trial continue.
Besides Orlando Bosch, are there other terrorists who have
taken actions against Cuba, but are living freely in Miami?
Yes, and not just against Cuba - against Americans too.
An example is Ronnie Moffett, an American who was killed
in Washington, DC. Recently, a number of documents were
declassified by the National Security Archives, and there
are clear implications of Bosch's involvement in the assassination
of Moffett. Yet, he was never accused or interviewed about
December of 1975, there was an explosion at the New York
airport and 13 people died. The person guilty of that act
and of a similar act at the Miami International airport
was found in Santiago Chile with Bosch. It is not by accident
that Bosch is free in Miami. It is not by accident that
Posada reappeared in Miami. It appears that Miami is the
place to be if you are a terrorist.
President Bush has stated that anyone who harbors a terrorist
is, in fact, a terrorist. Many Americans argue that Cuba
is harboring American fugitives. How is this different?
First, in the case of Joanne Chesimard: she is not a terrorist.
She was accused and involved with a violent act in which
a policeman lost his life. This is unfortunate, but this
is not terrorism. Terror is a very specific crime. How can
you compare killing in cold blood everyone in a civilian
airplane to an incident in which a policeman gets killed?
Chesimard was involved with the African American struggle
of the 1970s. Incidents like that were common in those days.
the issue of extradition, Cuba and the US signed a bilateral
treaty in 1904, which the US killed in 1959 when it refused
to honor Cuban extradition requests for people who were
accused or found guilty of assassinations, torture, embezzlement,
or who were linked to the Batista regime. Since coming to
Cuba, Chesimard has never been accused by the US of doing
anything - violently or non-violently.
Have any other fugitives committed any crimes since coming
Of course not.
What about the issue of the members of two Colombian groups
(FARC, ELN) and the Basque terror group ETA who are residing
in Cuba? Have there been any problems with the Colombian
or Spanish governments?
With regard to ETA, we were actually asked by the Spanish
government if we would receive members in Cuba. Since being
here, they have done nothing and it has been a non-issue
for both the Spanish Populist Party and the Socialist party,
who have never complained.
Colombian governments, foreign minister, and the military
leadership have expressed recognition that members of FARC
and ELN are in Cuba.
have the full consent of the Spanish and Colombian governments
to house these members.
It appears that in Miami there is a growing population of
Cuban-American moderates who want a more productive relationship
with Cuba. Is the Cuban government prepared to work with
these moderates and meet them halfway?
Cuba is willing to contribute to these positive developments;
however, we have to be very cautious because this is risky
work. Many Cubans have been killed in America. An example
is Carlos Varela, a 25-year-old who was assassinated in
San Juan, Puerto Rico 26 years ago because he was one of
the first who tried to organize Cuban-Americans to visit
their own country. Although the act was claimed by a terrorist
organization headed by Orlando Bosch, nobody has ever been
condemned for the act.
example is the Cuban Five who were detained and have been
in prison in the US since December of 2001. Two of the five
were born in the US. What was their crime? Opposing anti-Cuban
terrorism in Miami. When the Attorney General of Miami gave
one of the Five, René Gonzalez, his sentence (which
was the maximum possible sentence), he prohibited him from
going to "places were individuals and groups such as
terrorists are known to frequent;" meaning that Gonzalez
was not allowed in Miami. The Attorney General recognized
that the government knew of individuals or groups of terrorists
that are in Miami. This is an important issue for Americans.
Some of the high-jackers from 9/11 were trained in south
Florida. The FBI was not looking for people involved with
9/11, but rather people involved with anti-Cuban terrorism.
President Bush states that "either you're for or against
terrorism." There is no middle ground. Your Commander
in Chief is pardoning terrorism and is punishing his people
in the process.
There are some who think that Cuba does not really want
normalized relations with the US - that it is better for
Cuba to have the US as an antagonist.
To those people I say: change the policy - maybe just for
a short period of time - and see what will happen. We are
interested in having normal relations and having the embargo
lifted. In fact, we have been flexible on the position of
the embargo. We have agreed to do agricultural trade with
discriminatory conditions - including cash only, payment
in advance, and only the ability to buy, not sell. We could
have easily said "no one-way trade."
I am optimistic for a number of reasons. As you have said
with the title of your book, The Closest of Enemies, we
are neighbors. We have many of the same interests and we
currently share information about tropical storms and weather,
drug trafficking, human smuggling, and terrorism, as requested
by Resolution 1373.
problem is that many Americans are not fully informed about
terrorist activities against Cuba and the US dual policy
of being tough on the fight against terrorism elsewhere,
while protecting terrorists in Florida. I am positive that
Americans would not be happy if they knew about the Cuban
Five. If they knew, the Five would be released.
is not just in the interest of the American people for a
changed policy, it is in the interest of Americans and Cubans,
including the majority of Cuban-Americans. In the not too
distant future more Americans will realize that a fundamental
change of policy is necessary and we will live to see that
And on that optimistic note, I think we will close the interview.
Thank you for your time.