WASHINGTON – U.S. President Barack Obama on Tuesday informed Congress of his intention to remove Cuba from the list of countries sponsoring terrorism, where that nation has been since 1982 and which comes with the imposition of sanctions.
White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest announced the move in a communique.
Cuba has been demanding for years that it be removed from the list prepared annually by the State Department. Countries on the list – which currently includes Cuba, Iran, Sudan and Syria – are subjected to sanctions such as a prohibition on weapons sales and economic aid.
Congress now has 45 days to study the decision and, if it disagrees with Obama’s action, it can present a bill to try and revoke the presidential order.
Obama’s decision comes just three days after his historic meeting with Cuban President Raul Castro during the 7th Summit of the Americas in Panama, a significant step toward the normalization of bilateral relations announced by the two governments on Dec. 17.
In his message to Congress, Obama certifies that the Cuban government “has not provided any support for international terrorism during the preceding 6-month period (and) has provided assurances that it will not support acts of international terrorism in the future.”
Obama made the decision after receiving a recommendation on the matter from Secretary of State John Kerry, who on Tuesday hailed the president’s move.
In a communique, Kerry said that circumstances have changed since 1982, when Cuba was originally included on the list because of its efforts to promote armed revolution in Latin America.
The reasons that Washington had kept Cuba on the list to date include Havana’s alleged welcoming of members of the Basque ETA terrorist organization and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, as well as certain fugitives from U.S. justice.
Kerry acknowledged that although the United States has, and will continue to have, significant concerns and disagreements regarding many Cuban policies and actions, those concerns do not meet the criteria established to define a state as a terrorism sponsor.
The review that Kerry made of the matter included contributions from the U.S. intelligence community regarding Cuban actions and guarantees provided by the Cuban government, Earnest said.