Cuba Finally Removed from US List of Sponsors of Terrorism

This article originally appeared on TeleSUR | Friday, 29 May 2015 | Click here for original article

The government of President Barack Obama took a historic step forward Friday by removing Cuba from its list of countries that, according to Washington, sponsor terrorism.

U.S State Department Press Officer Jeff Rathke announced the decision: “The 45-day notice to Congress has expired, and the Secretary of State decided to terminate the designation of Cuba as a state sponsor of terrorism, effective today, May 29,” he wrote in a press release.

On April 14, Obama submitted to Congress the statutorily required report indicating the intention to rescind Cuba’s State Sponsor of Terrorism designation. The 45-day Congressional pre-notification period has expired,

The State Department added, ‚Äč"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.”

The next steps would be to lift the unilateral U.S. blockade against Cuba – which violates international law – and to close the U.S. military base on Cuba’s Guantanamo Bay. Cuba has said such measures are essential for normalizing relations between the two countries.

Both Cuban President Raul Castro and Obama announced Dec. 17, that the U.S. would begin changing its relations with Cuba. Talks to normalize the bilateral relation initiated Jan. 22 in Havana.

In January, the United States announced that it aimed to remove Cuba from the list before the Summit of the Americas in order to facilitate the opening of embassies between the two countries. The summit took place in Panama City on April 10 and 11. The Cuban government participated in the regional meeting for the first time.

Cuba on the List

Cuba was placed on the list March 1, 1982. At the time, the State Department argued Havana was harboring criminals, although the U.S. was in fact more bothered by Fidel Castro's government training and arming rebels in Africa and Latin America to fight against U.S.-imposed governments and foreign intervention in the sovereignty of democratic nations.

US Admits Cuba Is Not a Threat

In 1998, “a comprehensive review by the U.S. intelligence community concluded that Cuba does not pose a threat to U.S. national security, which implies that Cuba no longer sponsors terrorism,” the Council for Foreign Relations (CFR) stated on their website in an article dated March 23, 2010.

The council said that intelligence experts had never been able to come up with any evidence that Cuba was aiding any terrorist organization. Yet, the United States insisted on keeping the Caribbean nation on its list, which today includes Iran, Syria and Sudan.

Fidel Castro's 1992 Announcement

Cuba had been a fixture on the U.S. State Department's list of terrorism-sponsoring states since 1982, despite Fidel Castro's announcement in 1992 that supporting insurgents abroad was no longer an active Cuban policy.

According to the State Department, Cuba remained on the list because it "publicly opposed" the U.S.-led war on terror and maintained friendly relations with what the U.S. has deemed other state sponsors of terrorism, like Iran and Syria.

In early 2010, the United States included Cuba on a list of countries whose citizens would would receive additional screening in the wake of an attempted Christmas Day bombing of a Detroit-bound flight. State Department spokesperson P.J. Crowley said, "Cuba is a designated state sponsor of terrorism, and we think it's a well-earned designation given their long-standing support for radical groups in the region." The Cuban government denounced the measures, saying they were "politically motivated" and a "hostile action" by the United States.

US 2008 Report on Cuba

In the 2008 Country Reports on Terrorism, the State Department reported that Cuba "no longer actively supports armed struggle in Latin America and other parts of the world," but affirmed that "the Cuban government continued to provide safe haven to several terrorists."

This has never been proven, and in fact, the State Department admitted in 2008 that there was no evidence of terrorist-related money laundering activies in the Cuban banking system.

Washington also admitted that since 2006 Cuba had no longer provided safe haven to any U.S. fugitives allegedly wanted for terrorism, and it even notes in a 2008 report that Havana had rejected an U.S. fugitive who attempted to enter the island nation in 2006.

Experts consulted by the CFR agreed that the Cuban government ceased arming or training Colombian FARC rebels in 1991, while it was proven that it never aided any other insurgent group in that South American country, as the United States had said.

In May 2002, then Undersecretary of State John Bolton accused Cuba of having a limited biological weapons program and selling dual-use biotechnology to “rogue” states. However, former Secretary of State Colin Powell later clarified Bolton's statement by saying he did not believe Cuba had bioweapons.

Fidel Castro Rejects Terrorism

Fidel Castro went on national television to reject the Sept. 11 attacks in New York, and even offered medical assistance to the victims, while also opening Cuban airports to U.S. commercial planes diverted because of the crisis. A few weeks later, the Cuban government signed all 12 U.N.-sanctioned international anti-terrorism treaties. However, Cuba has accused the U.S. of sponsoring terrorism against the government of Havana.

Implications of Being on the List

When the United States puts a country – Cuba, Iran, Syria and Sudan – on its list of sponsors of terrorism, it implies that the country cannot engage in any arms-related exports. It also means there will be restrictions on economic and financial assistance.

It requires Washington to actively oppose any loans to these countries by the World Bank and other international financial institutions.

Any U.S. citizen who wishes to engage in financial transactions with any government on the list needs to apply for a license from the U.S. government, and the list prohibits the Defense Department from signing any contracts above US$100,000 with companies controlled by the countries on the list.

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