Cuba denounced an annual United States government report for once again designating the central American country as a state sponsor of "terrorism”, a setback for advocates hoping for a change in Washington's Cuba policy this year.
The Country Reports on Terrorism, issued on Wednesday by the State Department, continued to list Cuba, Iran, Sudan and Syria as countries that have "repeatedly provided support for acts of international terrorism." Cuba has been on the list since 1982.
The designation carries with it economic sanctions beyond those already imposed by the US trade embargo of Cuba.
Cuba's Foreign Ministry "energetically rejects the manipulation of a matter as sensitive as international terrorism by turning it into an instrument of policy against Cuba and it demands that our country be definitively excluded from this spurious, unilateral and arbitrary list," the Cuban government said in a statement late on Wednesday.
No policy change
Opponents of Washington's Cold War-era policy on Cuba had hoped the US would drop Cuba from the list this year in a sign that US President Barack Obama might want to normalise relations with the communist-ruled island.
Cuba remains on the list "because it fails to meet the statutory criteria for being removed," said Mauricio Claver-Carone, director of the US-Cuba Democracy PAC, the most powerful Cuban exile lobby group in Washington, Reuters news agency reported. He added that Cuba continued to support “terrorist” groups and harbour fugitives from US courts.
The case against Cuba has been based largely on its past support for the armed Basque separatist group ETA, which declared a unilateral ceasefire in 2011 and for Colombia's FARC rebels, who are currently in peace talks with the Colombian government which Cuba is hosting in Havana, Reuters said.
The US report says Cuba's ties to ETA "have become more distant" and it makes note of Cuba's role in the Colombian peace talks.
"There was no indication that the Cuban government provided weapons or paramilitary training to terrorist groups," the report said.