Since the surprise announcement of reconciliation between Cuba and the United States, Presidents Barack Obama and Raúl Castro have had two meetings to work on negotiations. The historic first meeting took place in Havana, and last week, American and Cuban officials congregated again to work out diplomacy. Amid the peace talks, however, Cuba still remains on the State Department’s terror list, joined by states such as Iran, Syria and Sudan. Though removing Cuba from the terror list would spur more amiable relations, United States officials should ultimately put national security over foreign diplomacy.
From the Cuban standpoint, it is understandable why the nation’s inclusion as a threat to the United States and the world is an offensive title. According to the State Department, any changes made to the terror list would require an extensive process. Therefore, Cuban pressure to amend the list is superfluous. Moreover, the head of the Cuban delegation, Josefina Vidal, should realize that opening embassies and supporting trade between the two nations does not require Cuba to be taken off the terror list. Apparently, one of Cuba’s conditions for diplomacy is removal from the list. “It would be very easy to restore diplomatic relations, if they would not link those two things,” a State Department official disclosed.
Indeed, the relationship between Cuba and the United States and the United States’ national security are two completely different things. The stability of the state of the union should factor in the Cuban exile community in Florida, obvious opponents of the negotiation. Additionally, two weeks ago, more than 200 protesters were arrested in Cuba for their support of the Ladies in White, a oppositional movement consisting of the wives and female relatives of jailed dissidents. According to Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, these efforts by the Cuban government symbolize escalated “repression, harassment and incarceration” from the Castro dictatorship. Compromising their protests denotes that “it’s clear there is zero intent on behalf of the Castro dictatorship to engage in a genuine conversation that centers around bringing freedom to the island’s residents.”
The regime, which is in a state of unrest, presents a dangerous intrusion on American affairs and should remain on the list until human rights are rightfully awarded to the Cuban people. Measures that focus on other agendas during negotiation will not impede upon the reduction of antagonism between the United States and Cuba.
Even more alarmingly, many United States fugitives are still in the custody of Cuba. Sen. Robert Menendez warned, “The Castro regime has a long track record of providing sanctuary to terrorists and harboring U.S. fugitives.” Menendez cited that ever since 1959, many who were wanted for murder, arms trafficking and hijacking in the United States sought refuge in Cuba. A State Department statistic from 2007 stated that 70 American fugitives were stationed in Cuba. In order to not be a threat to United States security, Cuba should return American fugitives so they can face proper jurisdiction in the American legal system. Then, negotiations to subtract the nation from the terror list can resume.
These recent meetings between the United States and Cuba represent a step in the right direction. National security, however, should always take precedent, and that starts with Cuba remaining on the terror list until they meet us halfway.
Danni Wang is a sophomore majoring in psychology. She is also the editorial director of the Daily Trojan. “Point/Counterpoint” runs Tuesdays.