Photo source here
In yesterday's New York Times, Helene Cooper writes about the Obama Administration's new take on engagement with countries such as Iran, particularly after Iran in particular has shown so little interest in engaging the United States.
Instead, administration officials say, the biggest benefit of Mr. ObamaÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s engagement policy now is not dialogue or understanding with adversaries, but simply a defusing of a worldwide view that the United States is part of the problem, a demonstration that the problem is TehranÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s intransigence, not WashingtonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s pique.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“What the president has achieved is that he has outed Iran,Ã¢â‚¬Â a senior administration official said Friday. He said Iran, by refusing to respond positively, had exposed itself as uninterested in a better relationship with the United States.
That is now the central point of the new White House outlook on engagement, and it extends, administration officials say, to Venezuela, North Korea and Cuba as well.
I find myself among the millions of Americans who simply don't follow U.S.-Iranian affairs closely enough to really judge what this Administration should or shouldn't have done to elicit real cooperation from Iran (or whether Iran was ever open to the notion). But even as suggesting that we've "outed" Iran's intransigence may put the best face on our lack of progress there, I sure hope the Administration doesn't plan to use this excuse for every setback it faces abroad. Engagement isn't a box you quickly check so you can point the first finger.
New America Foundation Senior Fellow Flynt Leverett offers up a view of U.S. engagement on Iran that sounds awfully familiar to Cuba watchers: "It's hard to say beyond some specimens of nicer rhetoric, what, in substance, is really different about their policy from what George W. Bush's policy was by the time he left office."
Many Cuba watchers believe, as I do, that the Obama Administration has largely allowed the Bush policy to continue on auto-pilot: they've changed the tone but not the substance. For that, the Administration does deserves credit - just not as much as some would offer. U.S. policy toward Cuba is still tougher today than it was 8 years ago, when broader cultural exchange and food trade were on the rise, not the decline. It's frankly hard to understand why so many in the media accept and repeat the notion that the Administration's lifting of restrictions on family travel to Cuba last year was an overture to Havana, when it was so obviously the fulfillment of Mr. Obama's campaign promises to Miami's Little Havana.
President Obama has ended some of the more provocative elements of the Bush Administration's Cuba policy. But no one can honestly call this a comprehensive shift in strategy, much less a true effort to engage Cuba on anything other than the margins. Let's hope the President's pledge still hold true, that the United States does not talk for talking's sake alone.
Image by John Ross available at: http://www.ballet.co.uk/dcforum/DCForumID12/83.html
Remember that kooky yet charming movie starring Bill Murray and Andie MacDowell, Groundhog Day, in which the main characters relive the same day over and over again until, well, I don't really recall what finally broke the spell. But something did, and I'm sure we were all grateful.
That movie came to my mind when I read this:
Members of Russia's Bolshoi Ballet will perform in Havana's Karl Marx theatre this week in their first appearance on the island in 30 years, Cuba's state-run press says.
The return of the Bolshoi comes as part of a renewal of relations between Cuba and Russia, who were Cold War allies for three decades before the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.
Cuban press said dancers from the Bolshoi and the Cuban National Ballet will perform pieces from ballets such as Giselle and The Nutcracker on February 13 in conjunction with the annual Havana International Book Fair, which this year features Russian writers and artists.
The Bolshoi was last in Cuba in 1980, when the Cold War was still running hot. After the breakup of the Soviet Union, Cuba and Russia went through a rough patch - mainly over money. But now all seems forgiven (including Cuba's $20 billion dollar debt to the former Soviet Union), and the two countries are warming up to each other once again.
Where does the United States figure in to this picture? Not at all, as usual. Over and over, the United States insists on sitting on the sidelines when it comes to Cuba.
But we almost didn't. The New York Philharmonic had planned a visit to Cuba last year. But its request for (U.S.) government permission to make the trip was denied because the group would have included patrons of the Orchestra. And, when it comes to Cuba, there's a reg for that: the Treasury Department actually offers guidance on its regulations on travel to Cuba, and that guidance specifically states that patrons may not travel to Cuba to attend the performances. As one friend noted to me, it was as if that OFAC guidance were written with the 2009 Philharmonic trip in mind. [There's a simple solution to this problem, if the Obama Administration really wants to solve the problem. Treasury is currently revising its "guidance" to travelers, to address changes to family travel made last fall. Why not publish the new guidance without micro-managing the public performance licensing.]
Of course, two years ago, the U.S. government didn't get in the way of the New York Philharmonic trip to North Korea, which included some 400 musicians, production crews, journalists and - yes - patrons, who, I might add, paid $50,000 per person to go on the trip.
It's demoralizing for Americans who believe in the power of cultural bridge-building to see our great nation stand aside with our hands tied behind our back, as Russia returns for an encore performance in Cuba, just ninety miles away. Only this time, the Cold War is over, everywhere else but here.
ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s been more than ten years since Juan Formell and the band he founded, Los Van Van, CubaÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s most popular salsa band for decades, played a concert in Miami. In 1999, thousands of Cuba exile protestors threw rocks, bottles and eggs at the intrepid concert goers. Last night, Juan Formell and his band returned to Miami, heartened by the overwhelmingly positive reaction in Miami to the Juanes concert in Havana last year. And while three or four hundred protestors showed up, ten times as many were able to attend the concert, in relative peace. Times sure have changed.
Or have they? Writing in yesterdayÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Miami Herald, Alina Fernandez Revuelta shows us just how much some few things stay the same.
Fernandez ( is Fidel Castro's daughter from an affair he had with her mother, Natalia Revuelta) is no fan of Los Van Van, who she says carry a political message with them from Cuba Ã¢â‚¬Å“precisely because they come from Cuba.Ã¢â‚¬Â
[Formell] arrives during this ``cultural exchange'' that's unequal and offensive, where the ones from the other Cuba can come here to provoke, ignoring the tragedy of so many thousands of families.
But those from this Cuba, those here, the exiles, have been vetoed any permission to step foot on their homeland, much less go sing their own songs . . .
Let those who are more Pavlovian dog than Cuban go to Formell's event. I'm staying home.
For decades, we've been trained to believe that Miami's Cuban American community wants nothing to do with the Juan Formells of the world. Any artist who doesn't either denounce the Cuban regime or else leave the island is an artist that must himself be denounced and shunned. There is this Cuba, and there is that Cuba, and you can only live in, and be loyal, to one of them. Whichever one you choose is your personal political statement.
Unless it isn't. Increasingly, and overwhelmingly, the Cuban American community is abandoning the name-calling, zero-sum game (If Juan Formell loses, we win) approach to Cuba and Cubans, and simply focusing on how to reach out to the Cuban people. Embracing their Cuban roots, family, music and immediate future, a majority of Cuban Americans supported Juanes' concert for peace in Havana which nearly a million Cubans attended (and not a few Cuban Americans as well), and nearly 70% support all Americans traveling to Cuba. Thousands of Cuban Americans, especially those who left Cuba within the last 20 years, are choosing both countries, quite literally, and traveling home as much as they can afford.
Many among this new Cuban American majority oppose the Cuban government in the strongest terms, but have simply concluded that isolating Cubans from Americans, and vice versa, isn't helping anyone. More and more, what Cubans share across the straits, rather than what they don't, is beginning to redefine the fractured Cuban family. Or, as Vanessa Formell, Juan Formell's daughter (who lives in Miami) put it to last night's crowd:
If you're Cuban, show me some feeling! I don't care if you're from here or from there!
Photo credit: Reuters
In his State of the Union address tonight, the President told Congress that the U.S. cannot afford to hang back while our competitors beat us to new markets. He called for America to double its exports, and expand every market opportunity we can. I thought to myself, really? Because the International Trade Commission concluded last year that we could expand U.S. farm exports to one country ninety miles away by half a billion dollars. That could nearly double our food exports to Cuba (which in 2004 was our 25th largest buyer) over the slumping 2009 numbers.
My jaw dropped to hear President Obama spend a good two minutes on the themes you hardly heard in 2009: trade, the Doha round, and keeping our "key" partners South Korea, Panama and Colombia - all of which signed Free Trade Agreements with the Bush Administration and to which so many Democrats have become increasingly allergic. If the President really was signaling he's willing to twist some Democratic arms on a trade agenda Republicans have been pushing for, I'll be shocked if a natural farm export market like Cuba doesn't end up on it.
Source: Associated Press
On Friday, the Washington Post published an editorial on U.S. policy and the case of Alan Gross, an American subcontractor for USAID's democracy program in Cuba, who was arrested in Cuba in early December 2009. The editorial concludes that the U.S. Congress should (continue to) withhold the right of all Americans to travel to Cuba until Mr. Gross is released.
Only in U.S. Cuba policy can we talk about holding back millions of generous Americans from an island and then pay a clandestine handful to Ã¢â‚¬Ëœreach outÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ to the people instead.
According to the Post:
Mr. Gross was in Cuba to help several Jewish community groups gain access to the Internet, so that they could use sites such as Wikipedia and communicate with each other and with Jewish organizations abroad, according to his employer, Bethesda-based Development Alternatives Inc., and other sources familiar with his work. He reportedly supplied the groups with laptops and satellite equipment for Internet connections.
For this the 60-year-old contractor was arrested Dec. 4 and has been held ever since by Cuba's communist regime, which has accused him of conducting an espionage operation. Only in the ancient, crumbling regime of the Castro brothers could this ridiculous charge be leveled.
In Cuba, access to the internet is very limited, and controlled by the government. It is difficult for Americans to fathom a country that would restrict access to technology and the internet today. But itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s not at all uncommon to put restrictions on the means by and extent to which which another country meddles in our domestic affairs.
How would we react if the shoe were on the other foot? Imagine a Cuban citizen for whom the State Department approved a tourist visa, who, when he arrived, supplied and serviced satellite communications equipment - paid for by the Cuban government - to an American religious or professional organization. ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s not terrorism, by a long shot. But in the United States, if you act on a foreign government's behalf and you don't register yourself as foreign agent, you're breaking the law.
According to the Foreign Agents Registration Act, a foreign agent is:
any person who acts as an agent, representative, employee, or servant, or any person who acts in any other capacity at the order, request, or under the direction or control, of a foreign principal or of a person any of whose activities are directly or indirectly supervised, directed, controlled, financed, or subsidized in whole or in major part by a foreign principal, and who directly or through any other person--
(iii) within the United States solicits, collects, disburses, or dispenses contributions, loans, money, or other things of value for or in the interest of such foreign principal
I hope for Mr. Gross's sake, there can be a swift diplomatic solution to his case that brings him home to his family. And let's hope the Administration learns to take its Cuba policy by the horns, finally, and face the failures and the opportunities The Washington Post has overlooked in its editorial.
It bears repeating that, only in U.S. Cuba policy do we talk about holding back millions of Americans from the island but then pay millions to a clandestine handful to Ã¢â‚¬Ëœreach outÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ to the Cuban people instead.
Photo credit: http://blogs.worldbank.org/files/governance/image/blog%20board.jpg
This afternoon, I intended to just post a link to the excellent translation by Ted Henken of "The Making of Generation Y," told by Yoani Sanchez. It's a fascinating look back into the building of Sanchez's famous blog, Generacion Y, over the last several years. You can find his translation here and the original version in Spanish at Penultimos Dias. It's long, but it's worth the read.
Maybe it was reading about creating blogs that kept me surfing. So, while at El Yuma (Henken's blog) I learned about a recent conference in New York on IT and Social Media in Cuba. I found it interesting, as did Henken, who participated in the conference, that the organizers made this point at the beginning and the end of the summit:
Let us be clear from the start, our aim in convening this Cuba IT & Social Media Summit
is not to subvert the Cuban regime; it is to empower the Cuban people.
I'm sure there are people out there who think it's not worth doing if it doesn't subvert the Cuban government. But I am glad to see that the conference organizers understand that when it comes to Cuba we all have a choice to make: focus on the government (and what you want it to be or not be) or focus on the people, and how our actions can impact them for good or for ill.
I like reading Mauricio Claver-CaroneÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s blog because itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s link-free, so you never have to click through to read about any of the people or content he refers to. Mauricio tells you everything you need to know.
That comment made me chuckle because I have often been frustrated by the lack of links and corroborating evidence or sources on the blog in question. So, that little funny sent me over to said blog (Capitol Hill Cubans) for a peek. I, too, like perusing the blog from time to time, because CHC is the only blog I've seen make a real effort to defend the U.S. embargo. And it's truly important to get all sides, explore them and then draw your own conclusions.
So, while on CHC, I came across something that surely merits more exploration than the author gave it. Claver-Carone, who is an outspoken critic of allowing Americans to travel to Cuba, shares a portion of an article (which, ironically, he actually linked to), in which a travel writer concludes, it's not worth going to Cuba yet because it has so few five-star hotels. Well, Mauricio had just one thing to say about it:
Just oozing with compassion for the repressed people of Cuba.
Gosh, that's a pretty sanctimonious aspersion to cast. And it made me wonder, what does "compassion" for the Cuban people really look like to Mauricio? Is he just unaware or unwilling to face - to explore - the fact that most Cubans would kill to get in on the foreign tourism market (and they'll do so whether they get permission from the government or not). That's because you can make more (real) money in one day on the most meager tips from foreign tourists - especially American ones, whom Cubans consider the most generous tippers - in one day than you can working most any other non-tourism related job in Cuba for a whole month. That's a conclusion that I'm sure I could find a million links to support, but really, that's what you hear over and over again when you travel to Cuba and people on the street tell you they hope more Americans will come.
Now, if Claver-Carone thought that travel writer should stop being so snooty and go down to Cuba with or without five-star hotels, because the Cuban people need that tourist's business, then our definitions of "compassion" might just coincide.
U.S. Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Adolfo Franco, then-USAID Assistant Administrator awarding a $1 million grant to the University of Miami's Cuba Transition Project (photo at: http://www.usaid.gov/locations/latin_america_caribbean/images/check5s.jpg)
Thanks to Tracey Eaton for reporting on this interesting comment from Florida Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, the Cuban american ranking Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, after she met with our Havana U.S. Mission Chief Jonathan Farrar while he was in Washington this week:
My discussions with Mr. Farrar confirmed reports that repression on the island has only increased over the past few months, making it clear that U.S. overtures to the regime remain unanswered. The U.S. must stand firm: democratic change in Cuba must come first, before any further efforts to change or weaken U.S.-Cuba policy. We must redouble our efforts to precipitate a transition to democratic rule in Cuba so that the Cuban people and our nation can feel safe and secure without the looming threat posed by the Cuban tyranny.
There is so much to comment on here that I hardly know where to begin first. I'll put aside the notion that we should keep doing the same thing because we haven't yet achieved any results (which, incidentally, fits Einstein's definition of insanity to a tee). And I'll also pass over the invitation to query what overtures we've really made to Cuba (that weren't more fittingly overtures to the Congresswoman's own constituents), or, what possible threat emanating from Cuba could be of greater concern to her than the threat posed by, say, radicalized Yemenis with explosives in their undergarments?
Instead, I'm curious about Ros-Lehtinen's belief that the U.S. government should "redouble" our efforts at - let's call a spade a spade - regime change in Havana, though she doesn't elaborate on how. Perhaps that is because our chief method of precipitating regime change, $40 million dollars in USAID programming in Cuba, is so fatally flawed. Nothing demonstrates that failure more than the unfortunate case of Alan P. Gross, an American contractor who was arrested in Cuba last month.
Little is publicly known about Mr. Gross's misfortune. The Cuban government contends he was illegally distributing advanced communications equipment in Cuba. The U.S. government says he was working with a non-dissident religious group to help them better communicate with one another and with colleagues outside of Cuba. Both statements may be true.
The program Mr. Gross was contracted to implement was funded by the authority granted to USAID in the 1996 Helms-Burton Act. That Act authorized U.S. government assistance (inside and outside of Cuba) to help bring a political change on the island. In response to the U.S. effort to undermine the Cuban government, the 1999 Cuban Law 88 explicitly made it a crime for anyone in Cuba - Cuban or a foreigner - to carry out activities funded by or in furtherance of the objectives set forth by the Helms-Burton Act. Among the activities it considers a crime: to distribute U.S. government-funded materials. And that makes handing out cell phones and laptops - if the U.S. government is paying you to do it - a crime in Cuba.
Reacting to the arrest last month, blogger Phil Peters wondered whether Mr. Gross was aware of the clear danger he could face in carrying out such activities in Cuba. It's not like the U.S. government didn't understand the risks: Peters dug up a notice written by USAID warning about the Cuban government's opposition to its programs on the island. At this point, there is no way the U.S. government would now fail to adequately warn a grantee of the risks involved in fulfilling a USAID contract in Cuba. And what grantee who gets a warning like that is going to get on a plane headed for Havana?
Which is why I wonder how exactly Congresswoman Ros-Lehtinen thinks we should "redouble" our efforts to hasten political change in Cuba? Surely no member of Congress will encourage more Americans to put themselves at such risk. Congressional leaders charged with funding the USAID Cuba program face a choice now. They could continue the program to avoid a fight with the likes of Ros-Lehtinen, or, scrap a program that could otherwise land one of their constituents in jail.
Photo from: http://www.havanatimes.org/wp-content/uploads/2009/06/haiti-cuba-florida-map.jpg
First there was a honeymoon. Then it got called off. And now, brought together over the tragedy in Haiti, the U.S. and Cuba have at least found something productive they can do together. Phil Peters posted coverage of not only of Cuban doctors already on the ground in Haiti, but also of an agreement reached for Cuba to grant standing authority to U.S. medevac overflights, eliminating what would otherwise be a 90-minute detour around the island back to Miami. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had this to say:
Well, we very much appreciate the Cubans opening their air space for medical evacuation and emergency flights, and we would welcome any other actions that the Cuban Government could take in furtherance of the international rescue and recovery mission in Haiti.
With the Secretary's invitation out there, it makes you wonder whether Cuba has put forward any proposals (or if the U.S. has) for how the United States can help Cuba help Haiti. Cuba has tremendous human resources, but it does not have much equipment, supplies or transport resources at its disposal. It would sure be encouraging to see politics put aside, no matter with whom we have to cooperate to help meet the overwhelming need in Haiti right now.
Seeing this type of cooperation go forward doesn't surprise me much. This Administration has repeatedly encouraged (and received) - in ways we read about and in others we don't - common sense cooperation with Cuba.
There have been renewed talks on migration, new talks on postal issues, the U.S. has proposed easing restrictions on diplomats' host country travel, and the U.S. Mission in Havana has gained consular access to several Cuban Americans in prison in Cuba.
But the common sense diplomacy, so far, stops there. It doesn't have to. Certainly there are other areas to expand cooperation - like in counter narcotics, law enforcement, and environmental protection, for starters. But at some point, such initiatives must square - and they don't - with the overarching approach to and framework on Cuba.
In an interview posted last week at the Council on Foreign Relations, Julia Sweig points out the fundamental flaw in the Administration's approach to Cuba (Sweig also analyzes where the Obama team went wrong in the rest of the region in 2009):
Knowing that Congress must do the lion's share of the heavy lifting, the administration has either genuinely or likely just politically made the decision that further steps to unilaterally lift pieces of the embargo--which it can and should do, for example, it can significantly liberalize travel for Americans without a vote from Congress, or it can take Cuba off the State Department's State Sponsors of Terrorism list--will not be done without gestures by the Cuban government, such as releasing political prisoners, becoming more democratic, taking steps politically that this Cuban government seems to have no intention of doing.
[It's] the same equation of, you commit suicide domestically and then we'll lift the embargo. That's been the equation essentially for the last fifty years, so without shifting that paradigm, the Obama administration really is perpetuating the policy of its predecessors. The main difference is that in poll after poll, Obama has the American public, including South Florida, now supporting a much broader set of openings than he's delivered to date.
For President Obama, perpetuating the policy of his predecessors on Cuba has far broader consequences in the hemisphere, argues Collin Laverty, of the Center for Democracy in the Americas:
The Obama administration's refusal to develop and implement a new Cuba policy - one based on U.S. national interests with a goal of fully normalizing relations - exemplifies continuity in the way the U.S. views the region, and vice-versa.
For the good of the Haitian people, let's hope U.S. cooperation with Cuba and any other country that wants to be helpful deepens. But such heartening and necessary cooperation is no substitute for this Administration taking a long (overdue) hard look in the mirror in the year ahead.
Photo credit: Anya Landau French (photo taken from the balcony of La Guarida)
As I went out hunting for something Cuba to write about besides terrorists, terrorism and terrorist lists this week, I found myself browsing the excellent blog El Yuma, published by Ted Henken, a sociology professor at Baruch College. Henken can always be counted on to take you on a virtual trip to Cuba with one of his posts, with details so rich and human you really feel transported to the island. And so after reading and enjoying several posts there, I came to one, belatedly, that made my heart sink: Requiem for La Guarida. I'd heard that this popular private restaurant had closed, but was steadfastly refusing to admit the impossible - and the irreplaceable.
There is a greater than 80% chance that if you've been to Havana in the last decade, you've been to la Guarida. When your taxi pulled up on that pot-holed, dark and often smelly street in front of the ramshackle tenement building, where several large men loiter out front, you probably wondered if you were at the right place. But then you got out of the car, and those men - who were part of La Guarida's neighborhood operation - helpfully pointed you through the door, toward the grandiose and crumbling stairs - and on the second landing you stopped to marvel: you're deeper in Cuba already than you ever realized you could be. You took a few photos, a dog trotted into the open area, and uninterested in you, laid down to nap.
And then you trudged up another flight of stairs, rang the bell, and they welcomed you to the Hide Out . . . a little apartment used for the wildly popular 1994 Cuban film "Strawberry and Chocolate," that was - I didn't know this - one of the last paladars, or privately operated in-home restaurants, licensed by the Cuban government in over a decade.
I won't go into the reasons why the restaurant closed has finally closed - getting the full picture from Henken is worth it (plus he's got a five-part series up on Cuban paladars). On the blog, Henken recalls his interview with La Guarida's owner, Enrique NuÃƒÂ±ez, back in 2000. NuÃƒÂ±ez shared with Henken the story of La Guarida (how it came into existence), the difficulties he faced supplying the restaurant, and his frustrations with Cuba's overbearing regulatory environment (i.e., restricting paladars to just 12 chairs and family-only employees).
At the time, as a new U.S. President was about to take office, and NuÃƒÂ±ez pondered the outsize impact the United States could have on this small private enterprise sector in Cuba. Henken recalls:
In short, he argued that a flexible, non-confrontational attitude on the part of the new [Bush] administration would allow a certain amount of breathing room for him and other private enterprises in Cuba.
On the other hand, if the U.S. took a hard-line approach to Cuba under the new administration, trying to punish it, that would spell more repression and difficulties for private enterprise, reducing even more the already almost insignificant space in which they struggle to survive.
Nine years later, La Guarida closed its doors. Now, don't believe anyone who tells you that everything that goes wrong in Cuba is the United States' fault. It's just that we haven't exactly gotten much right in quite some time.
Photo credit: Rodrigo Arangua/Agence France-Presse Ã¢â‚¬â€ Getty Images
Not surprisingly, in the wake of new TSA regulations requiring extra security checks on U.S.-bound passengers departing 14 countries deemed to be of concern (or in the case of Cuba, Sudan, Syria and Iran, to be state sponsors of terrorism), Cuba is formally protesting its continuing inclusion on the U.S. State Department's list of states it considers to be sponsoring terrorism.
The Cuban statement called the U.S. inclusion of Cuba an "unjust, arbitrary and politically motivated designation that contradicts the exemplary conduct of our country in confronting terrorism." I've already spent a good deal of time in the last week evaluating the arguments for why Cuba is on the terrorism list. (My main beef with keeping Cuba on the list is that it diverts precious security resources away from the real threats we face today.)
But there's one more issue that's been stuck in my craw ever since former President Bush announced that any country that harbors a terrorist is siding with the terrorists. The fact is, for more than two decades, we've laid out the welcome mat for two of the hemisphere's most notorious terrorists, Cuban exiles Luis Posada Carriles and Orlando Bosch Avila. Both are in the United States today: one of whom, Posada, we refuse to extradite to Cuba or Venezuela (where we fear he could be tortured - no, I'm not kidding), and the other one, Bosch, now walks the streets of Miami a free man. True story. Don't believe me? Read on.
Cubaphiles know very well who these two men are, but for those who don't, according to the FBI, they are the masterminds of the first and only mid-air bombing in our hemisphere - of a Cubana airliner, killing all 73 people (many of them teenagers) aboard on October 6, 1976. It's a tragic story. The National Security Archive has succeeded in declassifying much of the record on the Cubana airliner bombing, which you can view here.
Posada is also quite famous for his 1997 campaign to disrupt the Cuban tourism industry, ncluding a bombing that killed an Italian tourist. After taking credit for the campaign, Posada told a journalist writing for the New York Times, "I sleep like a baby."
Both Posada and Bosch have long, long files with the FBI and Miami-Dade Country police. They may be the most notorious Cuban exile terrorists, but they aren't the only ones. Beginning in the 1960's and easily stretching into the late 1990's, there is a long and bloody history of Cuban exile terrorism against Cuban targets, moderate Cuban Americans, and foreign diplomats deemed too friendly with Cuba (The Miami New Times' Jim Mullen compiled quite a list back in 2000). Heck, Alpha 66 still trains in the Everglades.
So, does that history of terrorism plotted on U.S. soil make the United States a state sponsor of terrorism? Or, what about when, in 2006, the Bush Administration refused to classify Posada (a known terrorist who had entered the United States illegally), as a terrorist whom the U.S. could then hold in custody indefinitely (shipping him off to Gitmo sure would have been ironic)? And that, without that classification as a terrorist, a federal judge in Texas recommended Posada be set free? (And by the way he was set free, until the U.S. figured out how to keep charging him on immigration violations, but never classified him as a terrorist.)
I do not have the unenviable job of weighing the terrorists threats we face and making that call for the American people, but I expect whomever does to take the job seriously. In 1989, right before the George H.W. Bush Administration pardoned Orlando Bosch, the other mastermind of the Cubana airliner bombing, Associate Attorney General Joe D. Whitley took that responsibility very seriously, and ordered Bosch be deported:
The United States cannot grant shelter to someone who will, from that shelter, advocate the visitation of injury and death upon the property or person of innocent civilians. The security of this nation is affected by its ability to urge credible other nations to refuse aid and shelter to terrorists, whose target we too often become. We could not shelter Dr. Bosch and maintain our credibility in this respect.
Can anyone imagine an alternate universe in which the United States government doesn't go berserk on the country that finds Osama Bin Laden and then pardons him? Boy, in that context, it's a little easier to see why Cuba gets a little crotchety when we throw the T-word around.
(For the most complete story around on Bosch and Posada, pick up a copy of Without Fidel, A Death Foretold in Miami, Havana and Washington, by Anne Louise Bardach.)