WASHINGTON – U.S. President Barack Obama will decide soon on whether or not to remove Cuba from the list of states that sponsor terrorism, a move that would allow Washington to lift a series of sanctions on the island, the White House said Monday.
“Expect a decision in the coming days,” spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters at the White House daily briefing.
Cuba demands that it be removed from the list, on which it has appeared every year since 1982 and which includes the imposition of sanctions such as prohibiting weapons sales and economic aid.
Although the Cuban government does not consider its removal from the list to be a precondition for resuming diplomatic relations with the United States and reopening embassies in their respective capitals, it has made clear that it feels removing it is very important.
Currently, only Cuba, Iran, Sudan and Syria are on the list.
The reasons that Washington has kept Cuba on the list to date include its alleged welcoming of members of the Basque terrorist group ETA and Colombia’s FARC rebel group, as well as certain fugitives from U.S. justice.
To remove Cuba from the list, the United States must come to the conclusion that over the last six months Havana has not been involved in providing support or assistance for international terrorist acts, Secretary of State John Kerry said recently.
Once Obama announces his decision, he must formally notify Congress, which has 45 days to study it and, if it disagrees, lawmakers can present a bill to try and revoke the presidential order.
On Sunday, Kerry refused to say what recommendation he made to Obama on the matter, despite the fact that Democratic Sen. Ben Cardin said that the secretary of state’s advice had been to remove Havana from the list.
“The president will make his decision at an appropriate time. We have forwarded the recommendation of the State Department and it is now in the inter-agency process and he will make the decision,” Kerry said.
Obama on Saturday held an historic meeting with Cuban President Raul Castro during the 7th Summit of the Americas in Panama, the latest step on the road to the normalization of bilateral relations, a process that was announced on Dec. 17.