Obama will remove Cuba from terror list

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President Obama will remove Cuba from the list of state sponsors of terrorism, the White House said Tuesday. 

Obama made his decision following a State Department review of Cuba’s presence on the list and announced the move three days after his historic meeting with Cuban leader Raúl Castro in Panama.

{mosads}The review began in December, when the president announced he would seek to re-establish diplomatic ties with Cuba after five decades of hostility that began during the Cold War. Congress was formally told of the decision on Tuesday.

“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,” White House press secretary Josh Earnest said in a statement. 

The White House submitted a report to lawmakers certifying that Cuba has not provided support for terrorist groups for six months and stating the government has received assurances it will not do so in the future. 

Members of Congress have 45 days to review the president’s decision, before it can be formally approved. Congress can block Obama from taking Cuba off the terror list if the House and Senate pass a joint resolution prohibiting the move. But Obama could veto it. 

Many Republicans and Cuban-American lawmakers oppose removing Cuba from the list of state sponsors of terror. 

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s Western Hemisphere subpanel, on Tuesday said Obama’s decision was “terrible,” because Cuba has harbored U.S. fugitives and helped North Korea avoid weapons sanctions. 

“They should have remained on the list of state sponsors of terrorism, and I think it sends a chilling message to our enemies abroad that this White House is no longer serious about calling terrorism by its proper name,” Rubio, who announced his presidential bid Monday, said in a statement.

Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), an influential Cuban-American lawmaker, said Cuba should remain listed as a state sponsor of terror because it continues to harbor fugitives wanted in the U.S. 

 “Cuba remains as repressive today as ever and is undeserving of this potential newfound designation,” he said. 

 Administration officials said the U.S. continues to have concerns with Cuba’s behavior, but they are not factors in its terror listing. 

 Secretary of State John Kerry said in a statement the review “focused on the narrow questions” of Cuba’s support for international terrorism, which is “consistent with the statutory standard for rescission.”

 Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), who supports engagement with Cuba, applauded Obama’s decision.

 “Good move. The list should mean something. It means more now,” he said in a tweet.

 Cuba has been listed as a country that supports terrorist groups since 1982 because of its backing of revolutionary movements in Latin America and Spain.

It was one of only four countries on the list: the others are Iran, Syria and Sudan. 

Senior administration officials said the decision to remove Cuba from the terror list was “done with every caution and every care” to look at information from intelligence services and assurances from the Cuban government. 

Cuba’s terror listing has been a black mark for the Castro government and remained an impediment toward taking concrete steps on establishing formal ties, such as opening embassies. 

But administration officials said it still has separate concerns about establishing an embassy in Havana, such as whether diplomats can travel around the country freely and speak to people without interference. 

“We’re not quite there yet,” the official said.

Tags Cuba Jeff Flake John Kerry Marco Rubio Robert Menendez State Sponsors of Terrorism United States Department of State

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