Discover more from Geopolitical Economy Report
Terror attacks on Cuba's embassy fueled by aggressive US policy
Cuba’s embassy in Washington has been attacked two times in three years, with no one held accountable. It reflects the long history of US-backed terrorism against Cuba, and six decades of economic war
By Calla Walsh
Cuba's embassy in Washington, DC was attacked with two Molotov cocktails on the night of September 24. This was the second terrorist attack against the embassy in the past three years.
The US Secret Service responded at around 8pm, but did not apprehend any perpetrators.
The explosives hit the front side of the embassy, which is already scarred with AK-47 bullet holes from a shooting attack in April 2020 — an emblem of the deadly risk it takes to be a Cuban diplomat in the United States, and of the long history of US-backed terrorism against the country.
The Molotov cocktail attack occurred the same day that a Cuban delegation led by President Miguel Díaz-Canel returned to Havana, after participating in the 78th session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA). It also came soon after Cuba chaired a historic summit of the G77+China.
The attack was clearly an act of violent intimidation against Cuban diplomats, and a reaction to the powerful show of solidarity by hundreds of people in the US throughout President Díaz-Canel’s visit to New York.
Following the second terror attack, Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez announced that no embassy staff had been injured and an investigation was underway.
Initially, the US government was eerily quiet about the attack on a foreign embassy just blocks from the White House.
The night of September 25, a day after the attack - and hours after about 100 DC locals rallied outside the embassy in support of Cuba - US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan finally released a statement condemning the attack and agreeing to an investigation.
Speakers at the rally called not only for an investigation into the attacks, but also an end to the illegal, six-decade US blockade - which virtually every country on Earth votes against each year in the United Nations.
Cuba is a victim of US-backed terrorism, yet the Joe Biden administration has continued Donald Trump's designation of Cuba as a "state sponsor of terrorism" (SSOT), as part of an economic war against 11 million Cuban people.
In a statement, Cuba's Ministry of Foreign Affairs put blame for this latest attack directly on the US government’s aggressive policy and hateful discourse:
Anti-Cuban groups resort to terrorism due to the moral bankruptcy of their hatred against Cuba and the impunity they believe they enjoy. On a regular basis, in the official exchanges between the Embassy and the Department of State, it has been warned that the permissive behavior of United States law enforcement agencies in the face of violent actions can encourage the commission of acts of this nature.
It is the second violent attack against the diplomatic headquarters in Washington, since April 2020. On the night of that day, an individual of Cuban origin, standing in the middle of the street in the US capital and using an assault rifle, fired a burst of thirty cartridges against the building. Fortunately, there were no injuries to the personnel inside the building on that occasion, but there were considerable material damages.
After three years, the perpetrator still awaits trial and the United States government has refused to classify the incident as a terrorist act.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs condemns this terrorist action and hopes that the United States Government will act in accordance with the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, in the interest of avoiding the repetition of these events.
It also warns against the double standards used by the US government's supposed commitment against terrorism.
The CIA and FBI have created, financed, and trained hundreds of anti-Cuba terrorist groups since the triumph of the revolution in 1959.
At least 3,478 Cubans have been killed and 2,099 have been disabled by US-sponsored terrorism since the revolution.
This includes 581 attacks against the country’s diplomatic representations abroad, according to Cuba’s Center for Historical Investigations of State Security (CIHSE).
At their peak violence, in 1974, Cuban exiles accounted for 45% of all terrorist bombings on the planet.
The most notorious of these terrorists, Orlando Bosch and Luis Posada Carriles, bombed a Cuban plane and numerous hotels. They were trained by the CIA and exonerated by the US government for their crimes. They died peacefully in Florida, celebrated as local heroes by the extreme anti-Castro community.
As Cuban Foreign Minister Rodriguez wrote after the latest attack, “The anti-Cuban groups resort to terrorism when feeling they enjoy impunity, something that Cuba has repeatedly warned the US authorities about.”
Unanswered questions about the 2020 attack
The weak response to the April 2020 shooting on the embassy is exactly what enabled an attack to happen again, the Cubans say.
The perpetrator of that previous attack, 42-year-old Cuban immigrant Alexander Alazo Baró, has yet to be convicted.
“The author of that barbaric act that machine-gunned our diplomatic headquarters ... is still awaiting sentencing,” wrote leading Cuban diplomat Johana Tablada, deputy director general of the Foreign Ministry’s US Division. “Cuba is awaiting condemnation from the US government, which did not even call this terrorist act by its name.”
Cuban journalist El Necio reported, “The defendant is expected to face a mandatory sentence of no less than 10 years in prison, a fine of $250,000 and up to three years of supervised release ... However, the defense seeks to prove a clinical picture of schizophrenia. There is still no sentence for this case, but the attacker is in preventive detention.”
At 2:05am on April 30, 2020, Alazo Baró parked his truck 16th Street NW, in front of the Cuban embassy. He approached the fence, yelled and desecrated a Cuban flag, then proceeded to fire 32 shots from an AK-47 at the embassy.
None of the dozen staff inside were injured, but easily could have been. The outside and interior of the building are completely riddled with bullet holes. Now the embassy has bulletproof doors.
Upon his arrest, Alazo Baró claimed he was motivated by his hatred of Cuba and fear of assassination by the Cuban government and alleged criminal groups. At his trial, said he “hated Cubans” and would have shot the ambassador if he saw him, because he was the “enemy.”
After weeks of silence from the United States following the 2020 attack, Cuban Foreign Minister Rodríguez publicly denounced Washington's lack of cooperation in the investigation, accusing the US of failing to “fulfill its obligation to prevent this attack, of which it received sufficient signals.”
US media and law enforcement dismissed Alazo Baró as a lone wolf, but he was a vocal Trump supporter linked to extremist anti-Cuba groups in Miami.
Alazo Baró had left Cuba in 2003 to settle in Mexico on a religious visa. He then immigrated to the US, crossing the southern border in 2010. He lived first in Florida, then in Texas, and later in Pennsylvania.
Like many Cubans permanently residing abroad, he maintained a normal relationship with Cuba, and visited eight times after leaving, last in 2015. He never exhibited any concerning behavior during his returns to Cuba or interactions with Cuban authorities.
However, during his time in Miami, Alazo Baró associated with the Doral Jesus Worship Center, a religious center and hot spot of aggression and violence against Cuba.
He befriended Pastor Frank López, a vocal extremist who has close relationships with anti-Cuba hawks like Florida Representative Mario Díaz-Balart and Senator Marco Rubio.
According to Facebook posts, Alazo Baró also befriended members of the congregation who advocated using drones to kill Raúl Castro and President Miguel Díaz-Canel.
In February 2019, a year before the AK-47 terror attack on the embassy, Vice President Mike Pence spoke at the Doral Jesus Worship Center alongside Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, Senators Rubio and Rick Scott, and Representative Díaz-Balart.
Their remarks showed utter contempt for Cuba and Venezuela, which Díaz-Balart said were suffering from “the same cancer.”
In March 2020, a month before the attack, Alazo Baró was admitted to a psychiatric hospital, diagnosed with delusional disorder, and prescribed medication. He already had a license to carry and, after being medically discharged, he acquired the AK-47 rifle.
Two weeks before the attack, Alazo Baró visited the embassy to scope out the target.
Cuba's Foreign Affairs Ministry called for the US to investigate these links between the shooter and anti-Cuba leaders.
Cuba questions how Alazo Baró was able to purchase an assault rifle with such ease, and then travel around doing reconnaissance at the site of the attack.
After the shooting, the embassy repaired the shattered glass and installed bulletproof doors, but Cuban officials decided to leave most of the bullet holes in place, marking them with plaques, so that this act of violence and intimidation can never be forgotten.
Meanwhile, the US government and media remain disturbingly quiet about these acts of terrorism in the heart of the capital.
Cuba's Foreign Ministry argued the attacks on the embassy could not be seen as separate, but rather as a direct result “of the permanent instigation of violence by American politicians and anti-Cuban extremist groups that have made this type of attacks their livelihood,” in a hostile political climate which heightened during the Trump administration.
Clearly this hostility against Cuba did not end with Trump, but rather continues under Biden, as shown by the second attack.
Biden has upheld nearly every one of the hundreds of additional sanctions Trump designed to strangle the Cuban economy, including by renewing the designation of Cuba as a so-called “state sponsor of terrorism.”
Despite US-Cuba cooperation on migration, drug-trafficking, and counter-terrorism, and despite Biden’s campaign promises to return to Obama-era rapprochement with Cuba, his administration has carried on Trump’s policy of “maximum pressure” and continues to fund $20 million each year to groups that attack and destabilize the Cuban government.
Cuba has received messages of support from Mexico, Bolivia, Venezuela, and other allies.
Cuba also saw an outpouring of solidarity from the US people, following a week of actions against the blockade and in support of Cuba during the UNGA.
On September 23, the night before the attack, Cuban President Díaz-Canel rallied with 900 people in New York City for the solidarity event “Voices of Dignity: People vs Blockades”.
As a leader of Cuban-America solidarity group Puentes de Amor, Carlos Lazo, wrote after the attack, “It is sad and disturbing that while the Cuban president advocated yesterday, in front of hundreds of Americans, for the construction of bridges of love between Cuba and the United States, today, in Washington D.C., a terrorist launched two explosives against the Cuban embassy.”
On September 25, local supporters gathered outside the Cuban embassy to show solidarity with the country, calling for the US to investigate these attacks as acts of terrorism, and demanding an end to the US economic war against Cuba.