Obama tells Congress he plans to remove Cuba from terrorism list

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April 14, 2015

WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama told Congress on Tuesday that he plans to remove Cuba from the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism, clearing away the main obstacle to restoring diplomatic relations and reopening embassies after more than half a century of enmity.

April 14, 2015

WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama told Congress on Tuesday that he plans to remove Cuba from the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism, clearing away the main obstacle to restoring diplomatic relations and reopening embassies after more than half a century of enmity.

President Barack Obama (right) & Cuban president Raul Castro shake hands during the Summit of the Americas in Panama City, Panama April 11, 2015.

Obama's decision comes on the heels of a Western Hemisphere summit in Panama where Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro sat down on Saturday for the first meeting of its kind between U.S. and Cuban leaders in nearly 60 years.

Cuba's communist government had demanded removal from the U.S. blacklist to move forward on efforts to normalize relations between the two former Cold War foes. Obama ordered a review of Cuba's presence on the list after he and Castro announced a diplomatic breakthrough on Dec. 17.

"After a careful review of Cuba's record, which was informed by the intelligence community, as well as assurances provided by the Cuban government, the Secretary of State concluded that Cuba met the conditions for rescinding its designation as a State Sponsor of Terrorism," the White House said in a statement.

Congress has 45 days to consider Obama's decision before it takes effect, and lawmakers are extremely unlikely to block the move.

There had been some expectations that Obama would announce his intention to remove the terrorism designation and move forward on restoring diplomatic relations at the summit.

But U.S. officials held off and privately made clear that they sought to time the move as leverage in broader normalization negotiations.

Cuba's removal from the list will remove certain economic sanctions on the island, but the broader U.S. embargo on Cuba will remain in place because only Congress can end it.

"We will continue to have differences with the Cuban government, but our concerns over a wide range of Cuba's policies and actions fall outside the criteria that is relevant to whether to rescind Cuba's designation as a State Sponsor of Terrorism," the White House said.

Washington placed Cuba on the list in 1982, citing then-President Fidel Castro's training and arming of communist rebels in Africa and Latin America. But Cuba's presence on the list has been questioned in recent years.

In his report to Congress, Obama certified that "the government of Cuba has not provided any support for international terrorism during the preceding six-month period," and "has provided assurances that it will not support acts of international terrorism in the future."

Secretary of State John Kerry said "circumstances have changed since 1982," when Cuba was listed "because of its efforts to promote armed revolution by forces in Latin America. Our hemisphere, and the world, look very different today than they did 33 years ago."


Courtesy: Reuters

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