How Could a Country on US’s State Sponsors of Terrorism List be the Chosen Country for Colombian Peace Talks?

By Gustavo A  Maranges on March 16, 2023 from Havana

Just a week ago, the second round of peace talks between the National Liberation Army (ELN) and the Colombian government ended. The negotiations took place in the Mexico DF, and despite not achieving the expected ceasefire, “substantial progress” was made to advance on issues like civil society participation and the points of the agenda.

The final statement did not reveal when the talks will be resumed but noted it would be after a short recess. It also made clear that both parties’ agreed to hold the third round in Cuba, which is and has been one of the Colombian peace talks’ historical guarantors. The island is one of the alternative locations for the talks since the process does not have a permanent location. Both parties praised Cuba’s commitment to the process initiated a decade ago and the significant contributions of the Cuban government and people.

The Caribbean country was chosen over alternative venues, such as Brazil, Chile, and Norway. There was even the option of continuing the talks in Mexico or returning to Venezuela, where the first round was held. However, both parties agreed to return to Cuba for the third round due to the sensitivity of the issues ahead.

It is noteworthy that here in Cuba they enjoy unique security, peace, and trusted conditions in the region. They also have the good offices of a country of proven neutrality and deep understanding of the process since it has accompanied and defended it as if it were its own peace that is at stake. We only have to recall Cuba’s impeccable stance towards Ivan Duque’s right-wing government when the latter broke off the dialogue in 2019 and demanded the extradition of ELN negotiators in violation of all domestic and international agreements supporting the peace process.

But this kind of action does not seem to reach Washington, or perhaps, it is deliberately ignored. A week before, on February 27, the Caribbean island was ratified as a Country Sponsor of Terrorism by the Biden Administration. Paradoxically, one of the reasons for this unjust designation is Cuba’s position in 2019 towards Duque, which instead of an internationally punishable act, was what  saved  the ELN delegates’ lives, and therefore, the reason why today it has been possible to resume the talks to bring about total peace for Colombia.

Something does not fit in this whole story. Either the members of the peace table made a mistake in choosing a “country sponsoring terrorism” as the venue for a peace talk, or it is the U.S. government that is wrong to include Cuba in its unilateral and illegitimate list.

Given recent statements by the ELN and the Colombian government, the apologies offered by current President Gustavo Petro on behalf of his people last August, and Cuba’s humanitarian aid to over 50 countries amid the worst pandemic humanity has ever experienced, it is clear that once again the US is alone in this most recent punishment against the island.

Who should be on trial?

The report presented by the State Department refers to the year 2021, but, guess what? All the accusations against Cuba correspond to the past century. The Biden administration claims that the island was included for two reasons. Number one: not to extradite the ELN delegation, and number two: to provide asylum to several fugitives from U.S. “justice.”

The first reason is absurd and only served as a pretext for Trump to reinstate Cuba on the list after it was removed back in 2015 by the Obama administration. President Biden has maintained the same arguments since then, although both he and Secretary of State Antony Blinken have expressed their satisfaction with the resumption of peace negotiations in Colombia. In other words, they recognize the benefits of the peace process but condemn Cuba for acting in defense of the peace process itself. It is nonsense from any point of view and reveals, once again, the hypocrisy and hatred the US government holds for Cuba who it views as their disobedient former colony.

If Cuba is guilty of anything is its tight respect of International Law. Granting political asylum is a sovereign right of any country and is an inseparable part of Latin America history.

However, if that were the criterion, the United States should include itself on the list for harboring terrorists such as Luis Posada Carriles and Orlando Bosch, who were responsible for blowing up a plane with 73 people on board (57 were Cubans) in 1976. This name list could be also be expanded to include many other members of terrorist organizations based in Florida like the Cuban American National Foundation (CANF) or Alpha 66 and Omega 7, whom the U.S. government protects from criminal responsibility before Cuban courts.

After all this, it is clear that these are only pretexts fabricated to cover up a political decision: to stifle by as many sanctions as possible a small country of only 11 million inhabitants who fight to develop its socialist project only 90 miles away. Every action by Cuba, such as this of being the guarantor of the peace talks, makes this truth even clearer.

Clearly, choosing Cuba as the venue for the Colombian peace talks is not a mistake by the members negotiating at the table, nor can the State Department’s designation be called a mistake. To qualify it as such would be an offense to Cuba, a country that boasts of the strength, humanity and efficiency of its institutions. It is nothing but a vile act, a premeditated punishment, and the greatest of lies and injustices against a country of hospitable people who have paid the high price of this slander for their firm stance in defense of peace in the region and the world.

Source: Resumen Latinoamericano – US