Cuba trip part of Mass. delegation’s long relationship with Latin American communists

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Overshadowed this week by President Barack Obama’s historic visit with Cuban leaders in Havana, another top American government official made some history of his own.

On Monday, Secretary of State John Kerry met in Havana with Latin America’s oldest communist guerrilla rebel group, the Revolutionary of Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) which has waged war on the Colombian government for half a century and which the U.S. government has designated as a foreign terrorist organization and drug cartel.

The meeting between Kerry and leaders of FARC was the first time a U.S. Secretary of State has met with the narco-terrorist group.

Kerry first spoke to Colombian leaders before meeting behind closed doors with members of the FARC.

More than 220,000 people have been killed in the Colombian conflict, the longest running guerrilla conflict in Latin America, during which FARC has taken more than 700 hostages.

FARC headquarters have been located in Havana since joint counter-terrorism operations by the Colombian military and the CIA forced them to flee the country.

President Obama and his family react along with Cuban President Raul Castro during an exhibition baseball game in Havana. (REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst)

President Obama and his family react along with Cuban President Raul Castro during an exhibition baseball game in Havana. (REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst)

Despite Cuba’s open support for the terrorist organization, President Obama announced in April 2015 that he would remove Cuba from the U.S. State Sponsors of Terrorism list. Obama has also asked Congress to direct $450 million in aid to Colombia in order to back peace efforts with FARC.

According to Reuters, on Tuesday, the day after Kerry’s meeting with leaders of the narco-terrorist group, a contingent of 40 FARC members attended the same baseball game between the Tampa Bay Rays and a Cuban team that President Obama attended. FARC negotiator Pastor Alape described it as a “symbol of peace.”

The events sparked a social media backlash, as the hashtag #KerryConTerroristasNo (No to Kerry with terrorists) began to trend on Twitter:

A long relationship with Latin American communists

It’s not the first time that the former Massachusetts senator has been criticized for appeasing Latin American communists.

In April 1985, Kerry, then a freshman senator, traveled to the Nicaraguan capital of Managua to meet with Daniel Ortega, the nation’s communist dictator.

An Associated Press account published on April 16 of that year noted that Kerry said he was traveling to the country to meet with Comandante Ortega, the leader of the Sandinista movement, out of fear that the U.S. was about to make the same mistakes it made in Vietnam in Latin America.

The account pointed out that Kerry’s visited occurred a week before the Senate was scheduled to vote on then-President Ronald Reagan’s request to free up $14 million to help fund rebels looking to topple the Sandinista regime.

“Our foreign policy should represent the democratic values that have made our country great, not subvert those values by funding terrorism to overthrow governments of other countries,” Kerry said at the time. The terrorists to which Kerry referred were Nicaragua’s  pro-democracy freedom fighters, known as the Contras, who sought to liberate their country from the grip of one-party communist rule.

One of seven rebels of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, FARC, who surrendered to the Army. (AP photo)

One of seven rebels of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, FARC, who surrendered to the Army in 2008. (AP photo)

Nicaragua was, at the time, ground zero in the Cold War. The Sandinistas were backed by Cuban Communist dictator Fidel Castro and by the Soviet Union. The United States backed the Contras. Kerry chose the Sandinistas.

Other members of the Massachusetts congressional delegation also cozied up to the Sandinistas. In 1983, then-U.S. Rep. Ed Markey traveled to Nicaragua to meet with Ortega and later talked about his experience to the Boston Globe.

Markey, now a Massachusetts senator, was asked about the response Ortega provided after the Bay State lawmaker questioned him about media censorship under the Sandinista regime.

“[Ortega] said he would lift the restrictions if he believed there was any kind of normal situation in this country,” Markey told the Globe. He went on to justify Ortega’s refusal to do so on the ground that “the U.S. was massing for war on his northern border.”

“How,” Markey asked, “could [Ortega] be expected to exist as though a normal situation was at hand?”

For his part, Kerry has continued to support Latin American dictators long after pro-democracy forces defeated Communism in Nicaragua.

The Wall Street Journal’s Mary Anastasia O’Grady writes that in June 2009, Kerry once again “went to bat for the dark side, this time in Honduras.”

As O’Grady explains, Honduran President Manuel Zelaya, an ally of Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chávez, had illegally overstayed his time in office. The Honduran Supreme Court found Zelaya’s actions unconstitutional and ordered the military to remove him from office.

In August 2009, the Law Library of the U.S. Congress concluded that the Honduran Supreme Court had lawfully ordered the military to arrest Zelaya; that the Court held a “proper, constitutionally mandated trial of the president”; and that the Honduran Congress “properly approved articles of impeachment of the president as provided for by the Honduran Constitution.” Human rights groups, the Honduran Catholic Church and the other branches of the Honduran government also supported the court order.

Nevertheless, Sen. Kerry stood by Zelaya — even demanding that the Law Library retract it’s legal opinion. And in 2010, Kerry sent a staffer to Honduras to press his position, and that of the Obama administration, that the Honduran court’s decision constituted a “coup.”

Five years later, President Obama nominated Kerry to be U.S. Secretary of State.

After meeting with FARC narco-terrorists in Cuba earlier in the week, Kerry on Wednesday arrived in Russia for talks on Syria and Ukraine. He is expected to head to Belgium on Friday to express U.S. support for investigations into the terrorist bombings that took place in Brussels on Tuesday.

Contact Evan Lips at [email protected] or on Twitter at @evanmlips.