U.S. Says Cuba Still a Global Sponsor of Terror

Critics say Cuba should not be on same list as Iran, Sudan and Syria.

ByABC News
February 27, 2013, 6:29 PM

Feb. 28, 2013 -- According to the U.S. State Department, the world's most prolific terrorist groups are supported by the governments of Iran, Sudan, Syria and Cuba. But while Iran, Sudan and Syria have well-known and documented current ties to various terrorists groups, Cuba's place on the list has increasingly come under fire.

These four countries are considered "state sponsors of terrorism" that, according to the United States, have "repeatedly provided support for acts of international terrorism." They are subject to the harshest sanctions the U.S. can impose, including travel bans, financial transactions and trade.

Last week the Boston Globe reported that Secretary of State John Kerry is planning to remove Cuba from the list, and that Obama administration officials no longer believe the Caribbean country meets the requirements to be labeled a state sponsor of terror.

State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland told reporters that the Globe's report was untrue.

"This department has no current plans to remove Cuba from the state sponsor of terrorism list," said Nuland. "We review this every year, and at the current moment we -- when the last review was done in 2012 --didn't see cause to remove them."

That doesn't mean there aren't advocates within the U.S. government who think America's policy towards Cuba needs to change.

Senator Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., who led a delegation of U.S. lawmakers visiting the country earlier, told reporters that there needs to be more "give and take" between the U.S. and Cuba.

"I think the worst thing that can happen is if we stay either in our country or in their country in this 1960s, 1970s Cold War mentality," Leahy said on CNN's State of the Union "We're a different century now. We should be looking at what's the future for their future and ours, what's the future for their children and our children."

Leahy and the delegation were in Cuba to help free Alan Gross, a U.S. development contractor who's been imprisoned on the island since 2009. Gross was in Cuba working for the State Department's development agency USAID, installing communications equipment, when Cuban authorities arrested and convicted him of being a spy. Leahy met with both Gross and President Raul Castro, telling the Cuban president that relations between the countries would improve if Gross were set free.

But the Cubans argue that Gross's imprisonment should not have any bearing on whether the country is considered a sponsor of terrorism. According to U.S. law, "in order for any country to be designated as a state sponsor of terrorism, the Secretary of State must determine that the government of that country has repeatedly provided support for acts of international terrorism."

Cuba was placed on the list in 1982 for harboring members of the Spanish terror group ETA and members of Columbia's FARC. In last year's annual Country Reports on Terrorism, the State Department said that Cuba continues "to permit fugitives wanted in the United States to reside in Cuba and also provided support such as housing, food ration books, and medical care for these individuals."