However the report also acknowledges that Cuba's ties to these groups today are tenuous at best. The State Department report notes that the Cuban government has actively tried to distance itself from ETA members living on the island, refusing to providing services to some of them. Leahy noted that over the decade Cuba has worked with the Colombian government to help broker a peace deal with FARC, something the United States supported.
The report also says that "there was no indication that the Cuban government provided weapons or paramilitary training for either ETA or the FARC" in 2011.
A look at the report's explanation for the other three countries listed shows that they contrast sharply with Cuba. Iran, Sudan and Syria all are considered "active" sponsors of terrorist acts, according to the report, which cites as evidence funding and harboring members of Hezbollah, Al Qaeda-backed groups, and other extremist groups currently engaged in terrorist activity.
There's also controversy over who's not on the list. North Korea, which was added in 1988, was removed by President George W. Bush in 2008 as part of deal to persuade the country to give up its nuclear program. In the years since, however, North Korea has flagrantly violated the agreement, and a subsequent UN resolution passed against the country for launching three missile and one rocket tests as well as conducting underground nuclear tests, the latest just this month.
Iraq, Lebanon, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Yemen are all considered by the State Department as terrorist "safe havens." That means they are countries where, according to the report, "terrorists are able to organize, plan, raise funds, communicate, recruit, train, transit, and operate in relative security because of inadequate governance capacity, political will, or both." Yet none of those countries has risen to the level of being formally labeled a state sponsor of terror.
Spokesperson for the Cuban Interests Section in Washington D.C., Juan Jacomino accuses the U.S. government of applying a "double standard" when it comes to Cuba.
"There is a lack of moral foundation in the U.S. policy towards Cuba," Jacomino says. "Keeping Cuba on the list is a justification for the U.S. policy to continue."
Julia Sweig, A Senior Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations who focuses on Latin America says that country's continued isolation is not based on global terrorism concerns, but on political calculations.
"American policy towards Cuba is all based on domestic politics now.," Sweig tells ABC News. "The deep irony is that Miami is way ahead of Washington in terms of U.S. policy towards Cuba."
Sweig says that in fact the behavior of the Cuban-American community, based primarily in South Florida, has demonstrated a shift in attitudes with the next generation of immigrants traveling back to the island more, sending over an estimated $1 billion of remittances, and increasing what legal trade is allowed.
"Those domestic politics themselves are now driving a further review and rethink about the policy," says Sweig. "That's why the presence on the terrorist list no longer passes the laugh test in Washington D.C."