As expected: Obama takes Cuba off list of state sponsors of terrorism

The United States has taken Cuba off the list of state sponsors of terrorism, a step that authorities in Havana had insisted upon in advance of the reopening of embassies.
U.S. Secretary of State John F. Kerry signed the order Friday, 45 days after the Obama administration informed Congress that it would remove Cuba from the list. The State Department determined Cuba had not supported international terrorism in the previous six months, a requirement for getting off the list that now holds only three names — Iran, Syria and Sudan. Cuba had been on it since 1982.
“While the United States has significant concerns and disagreements with a wide range of Cuba’s policies and actions, these fall outside the criteria relevant to the rescission of a State Sponsor of Terrorism designation,” said Jeff Rathke, a spokesman for the State Department.
Removing the terror designation lifts some trade barriers against Cuba, but an overall embargo remains in effect and requires a congressional vote to reverse it. President Obama has said he hopes to work with Congress to get the embargo lifted.
Until then, the action taken Friday will not provide a huge economic boost. It could, however, encourage some international companies and banks to do business in Cuba, as they will no longer fear running afoul of U.S. laws.
Obama and Cuban President Raúl Castro announced a historic decision to renew relations last December, and since then representatives of the two countries have met four times to iron out issues that would allow them to reestablish diplomatic relations, open full-fledged embassies and exchange ambassadors
Both countries closed their embassies in 1961, but each has maintained pared-down interests sections in the other’s capital.
It is not clear how much longer it will taken before the embassies re-open. Last week, Cuban and U.S. officials said they still needed to settle some other issues. Washington has been particularly concerned that its diplomats have the ability to travel throughout Cuba and meet with Cubans without fear they will be harassed for speaking with Americans.
The removal of Cuba from the terrorism list addresses one of Havana’s key demands. Though it used to support left-wing insurgencies in other countries, it viewed the designation as an affront.
This month a small bank in Florida agreed, at the request of the State Department, to allow the Cuban interests section in Washington to open an account. That means it no longer has to pay its bills in cash.

The Washington Post

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