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Jihad: Cuba’s Role

Ambassador Otto Reich

Editor’s Note: Ninety miles from the US, post-Castro Cuba has been working with America’s enemies and incubating terrorists whose aim is the annihilation of Israel. It wasn’t always like that. In September 2010, Shoshana Bryen wrote in the San Diego Jewish World:

"Fidel Castro is an old dictator and a liar… but, in fact, in the early days he was far from an enemy of Israel or Jews. In the journal Cuban Studies 23 (University of Pittsburgh Press), Jorge Perez-Lopez relates that Jews who left Cuba for Israel in 1961 were called “repatriados” (people returning to their native lands) although, he notes, most were of Eastern European origin. Other Cubans fleeing the revolution were called “gusanos” (anti-revolutionary worms). Israeli agricultural workers were common in Cuba and when Israeli president Yitzhak Ben Zvi died in 1963, Castro declared three days of official mourning. Algerian dictator Ahmed Ben Bella subsequently canceled his trip to Havana. Castro said he didn’t care.

"Only in 1974, when seeking leadership of the Non-Aligned Movement did Castro break relations with Israel. Which itself is a reminder that “delegitimization” is an old art form."

For more than one year, Iran secretly provided the weapons and training that Hamas needed for planning the October 7th attack against Israel. In the meantime, senior representatives of Iran and Hamas fostered an international diplomatic offensive with their allies.  Communist Cuba, another US-designated State Sponsor of Terrorism, was a key Iran-Hamas ally in this effort.

Some planning meetings took place this year with senior Cuban officials, both in the Middle East and in Cuba.  In one, Iran’s Foreign minister, Hossein Amirabdollahian, visited Cuba and met with President Miguel Diaz-Canel on Feb. 5th.  They discussed “issues of mutual interest and international topics,” according to a statement from the Islamic Republic’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Then, on Feb. 25th, a Hamas delegation publicly visited Jorge León Cruz, the Cuban Ambassador in Lebanon. In that meeting, Ambassador León Cruz recognized “the legitimate right of the Palestinians to defend their land,” adding that the Palestinians “are fighting for a just cause.”  Raising the Iranian profile, a few months later, on June 15th, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi publicly met with his Cuban counterpart, Miguel Diaz-Canel, in Havana.

Those three high-level meetings showed the close relations that exists between Hamas, its chief patron, Iran, and Cuba’s communist regime. Cuba’s dictatorship has a long history of both antisemitism and support of extremist terrorist organizations in the Middle East, where it has operated terrorist training camps in secret locations, as well as on the Caribbean island.

Moreover, Cuba has allowed the terrorist organization Hezbollah, also backed by Iran, to establish “an operational base in Cuba, designed to support terrorist attack throughout Latin America,” according to emails leaked from then US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in 2016.

According to US reports, Cuba has provided key intelligence to Iran, Syria, Hamas, and Hezbollah, to conduct terrorist attacks.

Not surprisingly, in 1982, during the Reagan administration, the US put Cuba on the Department of State’s list of State Sponsors of Terrorism (SSOT) for its ties to international terrorism and for supporting the Colombian guerrilla group M-19 and its drug trafficking operation to finance political violence in the Western hemisphere. The Castro regime protected leaders of another Colombian terrorist organization, the ELN, that was responsible for the 2019 bombing of a Bogotá police academy that killed 22 persons and injured 87 others. Havana repeatedly refused to extradite the ELN leaders back to Colombia, as requested by Bogota.

President Barack Obama took Cuba off the State Department’s list in 2015 as part of his efforts to normalize relations with Cuba. But even while it was off the list, Havana never stopped supporting terrorist groups. As a result, the Trump administration put Cuba back on the SSOT because of its continued support of terrorism worldwide.

The Castro regime has actively promoted antisemitic propaganda and demonized Israel. The Díaz-Canel government rejects Israel’s efforts to defend itself from Hamas terrorism. To date, Havana refuses to condemn the deadly Hamas attacks of October 7th that resulted in more than 1,400 deaths in Israel, and over 200 individuals kidnapped.

Instead, Cuba describes the massacre as “a consequence of Israel’s 75 years of permanent violation of the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people.” A classic example of blaming the victims for the atrocities visited upon them.

Cuba continues demonizing Israel and protecting its ally Hamas, an entity that is considered by the U.S. as one of the most violent and dangerous terrorist organizations in the world.

Otto J. Reich is a former US Assistant Secretary for the Western Hemisphere, US Ambassador to Venezuela, and currently President of the Center for a Free Cuba.