The US and Cuba traded accusations of support for terrorism as US President Donald Trump’s administration on Wednesday blacklisted the island, saying it had not fully cooperated on counterterrorism.
Washington increased the pressure on Havana just one day after Cuba urged a terrorism probe over gunfire that hit its embassy in the US capital.
The US Department of State faulted Cuba over the presence of Colombia’s leftist National Liberation Army (ELN) rebels, who traveled to Havana in 2017 to negotiate with the Bogota government, but have not returned.
Cuba joined Iran, Syria, North Korea and Venezuela in failing to be certified for last year under a US counterterrorism law, the Arms Export Control Act, that affects defense exports.
It is the first time that Cuba was not certified since the 2015 report, but the move has little practical effect, as Cuba does not buy weapons from the US.
However, the step is the latest by Trump to increase pressure on Cuba and move away from the reconciliation efforts undertaken by former US president Barack Obama.
The move is separate from a US designation of state sponsorship of terrorism, which has far-reaching legal effects.
“Cuba’s refusal to productively engage with the Colombian government demonstrates that it is not cooperating with US work to support Colombia’s efforts to secure a just and lasting peace, security and opportunity for its people,” the State Department said.
Colombian President Ivan Duque broke off talks with the ELN after a January car bomb attack on a Bogota police academy that killed 21 recruits.
The militants have been demanding that Colombia grant safe passage for its negotiators to return from Cuba.
Colombian High Commissioner for Peace Miguel Ceballos said the US move on Cuba gave weight to Bogota’s demands “that all countries where ELN or FARC [Armed Forces of Colombia] members are present hand them over to justice.”
Cuba has said it must respect the protocols of the talks it had been hosting, which provide guarantees for guerrilla leaders to return to mountainous or jungle areas of Colombia with security from military attack for an agreed period.
Cuban Minister of Foreign Affairs Bruno Rodriguez accused the US of hypocrisy for criticizing the island on terrorism, but not preventing the attack on its embassy.
“It is hiding its history of state terrorism against Cuba and the impunity of violent groups on its territory,” Rodriguez wrote on Twitter.
A day earlier, he demanded an “exhaustive investigation” into the April 30 shooting.
Police arrested Alexander Alazo, who is originally from Cuba, for firing 32 rounds in the early morning at the embassy in Washington, which suffered bullet damage, but no one was injured.
In a court filing, the US Secret Service said that Alazo had been prescribed psychiatric drugs after complaining of hearing voices and had been living in his car for nine months, saying he feared Cuban organized crime figures.
Referring to the purported mental health issues, Rodriguez said: “If there was hatred in Alazo’s actions, it was hatred induced by the aggressive language of the US administration.”
Additional reporting by Reuters
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