At 2.10am on 30 April, the Cuban embassy in Washington was attacked by a hail of machine gun fire. 32 bullets from an AK-47 peppered the entrance to the building and a statue of Jose Marti. No one was injured, though seven people were inside the building. The terrorist was Alexander Alazo Baró, a Cuban-born man who moved to Mexico in 2003 before seeking asylum in the US in 2010. The attack was carefully planned: Alazo reconnoitred the embassy two weeks before; he draped himself in a US flag to avoid being gunned down by police; he attempted to burn a Cuban flag on which was scrawled ‘Trump 2020’. Instead of cooperating and condemning this terrorist attack on Cuba’s diplomatic mission, the US government has added Cuba to a list of countries that are not cooperating with US anti-terrorism activities.

The US shelters violent anti-Cuban terrorist groups and individuals, and sponsors propaganda against the Cuban state. This is the second time the Cuban embassy in Washington has been attacked, the first being the 1979 bombing by anti-Cuban terrorist group Omega 7. According to US media, Alazo claims he received psychiatric treatment on his family’s recommendation after hearing voices and that he acted from fear of non-existent ‘organised Cuban criminal groups’ and the Cuban government which he believed were pursuing him; court documents record that he had lived in his car for nine months and had even visited the offices of law enforcement agencies to make allegations that the Cuban government wanted to kill him. Following the attack, the Cuban government immediately sought answers as to what steps were taken by US agencies in response to Alazo’s alarming behaviour leading up to the attack. The US State Department waited almost five days before speaking to Cuban authorities about the event. At the time of writing, they have still made no public statement, and have stonewalled Cuban attempts to seek answers about the attack and reassurances that the US will publicly denounce it. Such denunciation and cooperation would be a minimum requirement for the US to fulfil international obligations to protect diplomatic missions on its soil. Compare: when the US embassy in Baghdad was stormed by protesters on 31 December 2019, the US’s apoplectic reaction led to the assassination of Iranian general Qasem Soleimani.

On 12 May, after almost two weeks of silence from the US, Cuban Minister of Foreign Affairs, Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla, publicly denounced the US’s lack of cooperation and questioned its failure to apprehend Alazo in advance of the attack: ‘We must ask ourselves and the United States government how an individual with normal, religious, peaceful behaviour can be transformed into someone with mental problems who, with scant economic resources, becomes the owner of an assault rifle, moves, travels from one state to another within the country and launches an armed attack on a diplomatic headquarters in the nation’s capital.’

Alazo had lived in Florida where he was associated with the Doral Jesus Worship Centre, known to have connections with right-wing Cuban exile organisations. There he had come into contact with Pastor Frank López, an associate of Senator Marco Rubio – a perennial supporter of US imperialism’s efforts to overthrow the Cuban state and the Bolivarian revolution in Venezuela. Alazo is also connected on Facebook to anti-Cuban reactionaries who use this platform to incite terrorism and assassination against Cuban officials. In the absence of any evidence to the contrary (which the US refuses to provide), it appears Alazo was radicalised and incited to commit a terrorist attack by extreme right-wing members of Cuban exile organisations sheltered in the US, endorsed by US administration officials, encouraged by US foreign policy and which operate openly on US social media sites. ‘I directly affirm that this attack against the Cuban embassy, which is of a terrorist nature, is a direct result of an official policy of instigating hatred and violence against my country’, Rodriguez stated.

In a supremely twisted act, on the same day as Rodriguez’ statement, the US State Department notified Congress that Cuba (along with Venezuela, Iran, North Korea and Syria) is certified under Section 40A (a) of the Arms Export Control Act as ‘not fully cooperating’ with US anti-terrorism efforts. Cuba was removed from the State Sponsors of Terrorism list in 2015 under the Obama administration; Trump administration officials have signalled that they intend to reverse this due to Cuba’s continued support for Venezuela’s government (spuriously accused of ‘narco-terrorism’) and for giving refuge to Colombian National Liberation Army leaders when Cuba brokered peace talks with the Colombian government. Countries on the list are prohibited from receiving US economic aid and various exports, and the law commits the US government to opposing loans to them in institutions such as the IMF. This is only the latest hypocrisy of the world’s biggest state sponsor of terrorism and the Trump administration’s relentless efforts to bring down Cuba.

Will Harney