President Barack Obama told Congress he plans to drop Cuba from the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism. This is another step in the President’s efforts to improve relations with Havana after more than 50 years of diplomatic tensions.
In a formal notice to Congress, the United States leader mentioned a State Department review decided that Cuba met the requirements for being removed from the terrorism list.
Cuba “has provided assurances that it will not support acts of international terrorism in the future,” and “has not provided any support for international terrorism during the preceding 6-month period,” said the president in his meeting with lawmakers.
Announcing the decision, White House spokesman Josh Earnes explained that the United States will still have differences with the Cuban government, but Washington’s concerns fall outside the criteria which declare a state sponsor of terrorism.
Barack Obama talked about the terrorism problem last week in a meeting with Cuban President Raul Castro, which was the first formal talks between American and Cuban leaders in the last half of century, since Fidel Castro implemented a communist regime on the island. The two presidents met at the Summit of the Americas in Panama.
The United States and Cuba began negotiating the terrorism status briefly after Obama mentioned his efforts to normalize ties between the two countries, included expanded cultural and travel exchanges.
According to federal law, the terrorism state will still remain in effect for another 45 days, a period in which Congress will review the decision.
After the dropping of Cuba, only Syria, Iran and Sudan will stay on the list of state sponsors of terrorism. Other countries which were removed from the list over the years are Iraq (2003), Libya (2006) and North Korea (2008).
The United States first labeled Cuba as a state sponsor of terrorism in 1982 after the White House said Havana promoted armed revolutions that were made by terrorist organizations.
Some Republicans had denounced Obama’s ruling even before it became public. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., said the move is not rooted in reality and that 11 million Cubans are still suffering under the Castro regime.
Obama recently extended the state of emergency against Cuba, which is in effect since 1996. The move implied that the Castro regime had threatened to attack U.S. airplanes or ships in the waters north the island. That state of emergency is still valid, American aircraft or vessels being prohibited to enter Cuban waters or airspace without authorization.
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