U.S. Keeps Cuba on State Sponsors of Terrorism List

HAVANA (AP) -

The State Department announced Wednesday that Washington has no plans to remove Cuba from a list of state sponsors of terrorism that also includes Iran, Syria and Sudan.

The decision is sure to ruffle feathers in Havana, which vehemently denies any links to terrorism. Cuba’s government contends its inclusion on the list is a political vendetta by a U.S. government that has kept an economic embargo on the Communist-run island for 51 years.

State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell said Washington “has no current plans to remove Cuba” from the list, which is included in the department’s annual report on terrorism.

The report was supposed to have been released Tuesday, but has been delayed. Officials say it is likely to come out later in May.

Wednesday was a holiday in Cuba and there was no immediate comment from the government.

Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Cuban-American Republican from Florida, praised the decision to keep Cuba on the list. It “reaffirms that the Castro regime is, and has always been, a supporter and facilitator of terrorism,” she said.

She criticized the administration for not putting North Korea back on the list. The reclusive Asian country was taken off in 2008 amid negotiations over nuclear disarmament that ultimately failed.

Cuba is ostensibly included on the list because it has harbored Colombian rebels and Basque militants as well as some aging members of American militant groups from the 1960s and ‘70s.

Many Cuba watchers had speculated the time might be ripe for Cuba to get off the list, in large part because the Cuban government is now hosting peace talks between Colombian rebels and that country’s government, while the Basque militants have announced a permanent cease-fire.