US takes Cuba off list of state sponsors of terrorism

30 May 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Another important step in reopening Cuba-American relations.

The Obama administration on Friday formally removed Cuba from a U.S. terrorism blacklist as part of the process of normalizing relations between the Cold War foes.The United States dropped Cuba from its blacklist of state sponsors of terrorism Friday, a significant move toward normalizing ties frozen for half a century. President Barack Obama had said on April 14 he would drop the former Cold War rival from the list, initiating a 45-day review period for Congress that expired on Friday. Cuba — on the list since 1982 — moves from the ranks of nations like Iran, Syria and Sudan, toward a working relationship with its Cold War “yanki” foe that could boost Havana’s ailing economy.

Lawmakers had that amount of time to weigh in and try to block the move, but did not do so. “The 45-day congressional pre-notification period has expired, and the secretary of state has made the final decision to rescind Cuba’s designation as a state sponsor of terrorism, effective today, May 29, 2015,” the State Department said in a statement. “While the United States has significant concerns and disagreements with a wide range of Cuba’s policies and actions, these fall outside the criteria relevant to the rescission of a state sponsor of terrorism designation,” the statement said. Iran’s leaders are surely taking note.” Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, both of Cuban-American heritage, have been even more critical of the thawing in relations, with Cruz calling it a tragedy and Rubio describing it as ridiculous. The step comes as officials from the two countries continue to hash out details of restoring full diplomatic relations, including opening embassies in Washington and Havana and returning ambassadors to the two countries for the first time since the U.S. severed diplomatic relations with the island in January 1961.

The White House sees better relations with Cuba as correcting an out of date policy and as a likely signature foreign policy achievement of his presidency. In his report, he said Cuba hadn’t provided any support for international terrorism in the previous six months and had provided assurances it wouldn’t support such acts in the future. But those bans remain in place under other, overlapping U.S. sanctions, since Cuba is still subject to a wider U.S. economic embargo that has been in place since the early 1960s. “As a practical matter, most restrictions related to exports and foreign aid will remain due to the comprehensive trade and arms embargo,” said a U.S. official on condition of anonymity.

A majority of Americans agree, but the move has been controversial among older Cuban Americans and Republicans who are trying to court their vote ahead of 2016 elections. Miami’s three Cuban-American Republicans in Congress — Carlos Curbelo, Mario Diaz-Balart and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen — also slammed the change in statements Friday.

By all accounts, Cuban support for anything that might accurately be described as terrorism ended at least a quarter-century ago. (The U.S. side of the terrorism ledger isn’t exactly clean either). With no attempt by Congress to override his recommendation in the 45-day period, the president’s directive now takes effect as soon as it is published in the Federal Register. “We are just two days away,” Sen. U.S. and Cuban officials have said the two sides are close to resolving the final issues but the most recent round of talks ended last Friday with no announcement of an agreement. The visit had special significance, recognizing the instrumental role of the Catholic church and Pope Francis’s successful intervention in improving ties between Havana and Washington. Tom Udall, a Democrat from New Mexico, told reporters in Havana on Wednesday during a visit to the island. “There has not been a vote in the Congress so that’s going to stand.

Obama has already made it easier for 12 categories of Americans to visit the communist island, no longer requiring them to apply for a license before traveling. Additionally, Castro continues to provide a safe haven to terror groups like the Colombian FARC and Spanish ETA and harbors fugitives from American justice. But progress has been made, and we certainly have diplomatic relations — in some cases close diplomatic and economic relations — with countries with a much worse and much more recent record. The Castro regime’s responsibility in the Brothers to the Rescue shoot down, the unresolved claims stemming from its illegal confiscation of property from American citizens and businesses, and its continual use of repressive tactics to silence any opposition to the tyrannical regime are further evidence that Cuba should not have been removed from the SSOT. Cuba hasn’t been sponsoring left-wing guerrilla movements for a long time,” said Richard Feinberg, a professor of international political economy at the University of California, San Diego and a National Security Council director during the Clinton administration.

That effort would still have to tackle bigger questions such as the embargo, which only Congress can fully revoke, as well as the future of the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay and Cuba’s democracy record. As his December announcement made clear his primary interest was in pushing a political narrative about the Castros’ actions, instead of one rooted in reality,” said South Florida Republican Rep. Flashpoints included a failed U.S.-backed invasion of Cuba by Cuban exiles in 1961 and the basing of Soviet missiles on the island, only 90 miles (145 km) south of Florida, that nearly triggered a nuclear war in 1962. The Castro regime has harbored U.S. criminals from the FBI’s Terrorist list, illegally shipped weapons to North Korea, and been complicit in the deaths of Americans over international waters.

Republican House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner and potential presidential candidate Jeb Bush criticized the White House’s removal of Cuba from the terrorism list, accusing it of making concessions without demanding that Havana improve its human rights. “President Obama seems more interested in capitulating to our adversaries than in confronting them,” Bush said, calling the move “a mistake” and urging congressional pressure on Cuba. He made this ill-advised decision despite the Castro regime’s continuation of its terrorist activities, including illegal weapons smuggling, extensive espionage activities, assistance to terrorist organizations and rogue regimes, harboring fugitives from U.S. justice, including terrorists Joanne Chesimard and William Morales, and even protecting three high-ranking members of its military who have outstanding federal indictments for murdering Americans. Cuba’s U.S. diplomatic missions had searched for a new bank for more than a year after its former banker, M&T, informed them it was getting out of the business of handling any accounts for foreign missions. This does not come as a surprise, as President Obama has an unfortunate history of appeasing those who are a threat to our country’s national security interests. Under Obama’s new Cuba policy, U.S. banks are now allowed to establish correspondent accounts at Cuban financial institutions and to support expanded trade and travel with Cuba authorized under the new policy.

Taking Cuba off the list, said Feinberg, “removes one more constraint from the U.S. side, making it even more apparent that the ball is now in Cuba’s court.” As Obama was visiting Florida on Thursday, Gov. With a challenge no longer looming, “people began to analyze their business opportunities in Cuba more seriously,’’ said Andy Fernández, who heads Holland & Knight’s Cuba Action Team/Financial Services. “Now one of the first barricades has been lifted. But David Levine, an international trade attorney in the Washington office of McDermott Will & Emory, said as more U.S. professional, business and academic groups head to Cuba “to scope things out” and start to see opportunities, “it will help push politicians toward what needs to be done to normalize the relationship.”

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