Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Cuba to be Removed from U.S. State Sponsors of Terrorism List?

Could Cuba soon have its designation by the U.S. as a state sponsor of terrorism removed? Several government officials have indicated that this could be the case amid the White House’s push to improve bilateral ties.

According to CNN, an unnamed U.S. official claimed earlier today that it is “our expectation” that the island could be stricken from the list that includes Iran, Sudan and Syria. The official noted that a formal announcement could come as early as this Wednesday.

White House deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes admitted earlier today that the State Department’s review of Cuban status on the blacklist is almost finished.

“We expect that it's likely in the final stages. But we don’t control the timing. The State Department does,” Rhodes mentioned in a conference call to reporters.

Meanwhile, U.S. President Barack Obama admitted that he would move quickly once a recommendation is officially given.

“As soon as I get a recommendation, I’ll be in a position to act on it,” Obama said during an interview with NPR.

Obama admitted his optimism over the “real opportunity” to change relations between the U.S. and Cuba including the possibility of opening an embassy. Nevertheless, he acknowledged “I don't expect immediate transformation in the Cuban-American relationship overnight.”

Cuba’s placement on the state sponsors of terrorism list since 1982 has been one of the major stumbling blocks in closing the diplomatic breach between the U.S. and Cuba.

It is a nonsense. Cuba has been there for more than 20 years… We hope that very soon Cuba will be removed from there,” declared Cuba’s Ambassador to Canada, Julio Garmendia Pena, last month.

U.S.-Cuba relations will likely be one of the main topics for discussion at the next edition of the Summit of the Americas in Panama this Friday and Saturday. Ricardo Ulcuango, the Ecuadoran Ambassador to Bolivia, mentioned that Latin American representatives at the conference would manifest their opposition to the decades-long U.S. trade blockade against Cuba. Ulcuango did note, however, that Cuba’s participation for the first time at the summit represents as “historic shift in hemispheric affairs.”

Both Obama and his Cuban counterpart, Raul Castro, are expected to meet face-to-face during the conference though Rhodes said that a formal meeting has yet to be scheduled. Nevertheless, the foreign ministers of the U.S. and Cuba will likely engage in discussions while attending the summit.

The push for improving ties between the U.S. has run into stiff opposition from the seven Cuban-American legislators in Congress representing both the Democrats and Republicans. But a national poll of Cuban-Americans released last week has shown growing support in the nearly four months since Obama and Castro separately announced their intentions to normalize relations.

YouTube Source – Voice of America (Latin American leaders at the previous Summit of the Americas in Colombia three years ago voiced their disappointment over U.S.-Cuba ties).

Online Sources (English) – CNN, Miami Herald, National Post, teleSUR English, NBC News, NPR

Online Sources (Spanish) – El Espectador

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