US removes Cuba from list of countries not fully cooperating against terrorism News
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US removes Cuba from list of countries not fully cooperating against terrorism

The US removed Cuba the list of countries not fully cooperating against terrorism, also known as the Not Fully Cooperating Countries (NFCC) list, State Department Principal Deputy Spokesperson Vedant Patel confirmed on Wednesday. Patel said that the circumstances leading to Cuba’s designation as an NFCC have changed since 2022.

The NFCC list is part of the State Department’s annual assessment of international cooperation in counterterrorism efforts, and countries on this list may face restrictions on certain types of aid and exports of defense-related goods and services.

Cuba was initially placed on the NFCC list in 2020 due to its refusal to collaborate with Colombia on extradition requests related to members of the National Liberation Army (Spanish: Ejército de Liberación Nacional, ELN), a designated terrorist organization. The Cuban government did not formally respond to the extradition requests for ELN leaders filed by Colombia after the group claimed responsibility for the 2019 bombing of a Bogotá police academy that killed 22 people and injured 87 others.

However, the State Department’s decision to remove Cuba from the list acknowledges the changed circumstances, particularly the resumption of law enforcement cooperation between the US and Cuba in 2023, including on counterterrorism issues. Additionally, Colombia’s suspension of arrest warrants against the individuals in question in August 2022 rendered Cuba’s previous refusal to engage in extradition requests no longer relevant.

Despite this development, Cuba remains on the separate US list of State Sponsors of Terrorism (SST). Cuba was previously designated as an SST in 1982 because of its long history of providing advice, safe haven, communications, training, and financial support to guerrilla groups and individual terrorists. The designation was rescinded in 2015 after a thorough review found that the country met the statutory criteria for rescission. However, in 2021, the Secretary of State determined that Cuba had repeatedly provided support for acts of international terrorism in the six years since its designation had been rescinded, citing the country’s refusal to extradite ELN leaders and its continued harboring of several US fugitives wanted on charges related to political violence.

Patel explained that the NFCC list and the SST list are distinct, as the SST list includes countries determined by the Secretary of State to have repeatedly provided support for acts of international terrorism. Removal from the NFCC list does not automatically trigger a review of Cuba’s status as a state sponsor of terrorism.

Notably, compared to the NFCC list, the SST designation carries more severe implications, including broader economic sanctions and restrictions on foreign assistance.

Currently, the countries on the NFCC list are North Korea, Iran, Syria, and Venezuela, while the countries on the SST list are Cuba, North Korea, Iran, and Syria.

Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez welcomed the removal from the list but urged the US to take further steps toward fully normalizing relations, saying, “The U.S. has just admitted what is known to everyone: #Cuba fully collaborates with the efforts against terrorism.” He added, “Any political manipulation of this issue must cease. Cuba’s arbitrary and unjust inclusion in the list of States sponsors of terrorism must end.”