To the surprise and disappointment of many, this week the Supreme Court did not review a Florida law passed in 2006 which barred public schools and universities from using state money for travel to Cuba – Cuba being deemed by the federal government to be a “state sponsor of terrorism.” The law had been controversial from the beginning, having been ruled unconstitutional by the U.S. district judge in 2008, but then reinstated by Governor Charlie Crist, who overturned the ruling of the district judge. In March of 2011, however, the ACLU and various university professors in Florida asked the U.S. Supreme Court to review the case. Its decision was expected to go against the law, putting an end to it. Not so, however. The justices chose not to call for a hearing, thus ending the appeal and leaving the controversial law on the books.
This cannot but cause serious disruptions. A number of colleges and universities in Florida have highly regarded academic programs involving Cuba. These will not necessarily have to be closed down. They cannot use state funds, but can use those of foundations and various other entities. And, of course, academic programs and exchanges between Cuba and universities and colleges in other states will continue, which simply points up the fact that the 2006 law is injurious to Florida and its interests and harms Cuba not at all.
To add insult to injury, the fact is that there is no evidence that would place Cuba on the list of terrorist states. The Center for International Policy has been following this issue and reviewing the annual State Department reports for over ten years now. Our conclusion is that the reasons put forward by the State Department for keeping Cuba on the list do not withstand the most elementary scrutiny. Cuba does not, for example, endorse terrorism as a policy. On the contrary, it has condemned it in all its manifestations, has signed all twelve UN anti-terrorist resolutions and offered to sign agreements with the U.S. to cooperate in combating terrorism, an offer the Bush administration ignored, and which the Obama administration continues to ignore. Nor, just as an example, is it harboring Basque or Colombian terrorists, as the State Department had earlier claimed. Members of ETA are in Cuba with the full knowledge of the Spanish government. And as for the Colombian government, far from accusing Cuba of harboring Colombian guerrillas, it stresses that the Cuban government is playing a helpful role in efforts to bring peace to Colombia and that “there is no information…that Cuba is in any way linked to terrorist activities in Colombia today.” (1)
Keeping Cuba on the terrorist list causes serious damage to the U.S. in a number of ways. For one thing, to keep Cuba on the list without any evidence seriously undercuts our own credibility. And there is no evidence. One need only look at the State Department reports over the past few years to see that that is the case. Its authors have not come up with a single example of a terrorist act, or support for terrorist acts, on Cuba’s part. Nothing.
And for another, keeping Cuba on the list opens the way for exile court claims against Cuba. In one recent case, the award to the claimant was for almost three billion dollars! And under existing laws, these awards would have to be paid before relations could be normalized between the U.S. and Cuba. We may soon reach a sum which could virtually rule out normalization. The U.S. may not be interested in normalization now, but at some point it will be – only to find perhaps that it has impaired the way.
Indeed, it can be said that keeping Cuba on the terrorist list harms the U.S. far more than it harms Cuba. How does that make any sense whatever?
(1) See the International Policy Report: Cuba on the terrorist list. The Center for International Policy, November of 2002. Page 8.