US State Department Recommends Taking Cuba off Terrorism List

The State Department recommendation means the White House could announce its intention to delist Cuba as early as Thursday.

(Telesur) – The U.S. State Department has recommended that Cuba be removed from the list of “State Sponsors of Terrorism,” two U.S. officials told CNN Wednesday.

The recommendation will now go to the Secretary of State John Kerry, who will then pass it on to U.S. President Barack Obama. Obama stated earlier this week that he would act swiftly once a recommendation was in his hands.

Although an official announcement has not been made, the timing of the decision by the State Department would allow Obama to remove Cuba ahead of the meeting of the heads of state from the hemisphere at the Summit of the Americas in Panama this week.

The inclusion of Cuba in the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism has been seen as a major impediment to the restoration of diplomatic relations between the two countries. Cuba specified that a U.S. Embassy would not be opened until it was removed from the list.

However, the U.S. economic blockade remains the main hurdle to the full restoration of diplomatic relations, with Cuba’s vice president stating that relations would not be restored until the blockade was lifted.

Should Obama remove Cuba from the list, the Republican-controlled U.S. Congress has 45 days to overturn his decision, but would need bipartisan support to overcome the president’s veto.

That outcome is less likely after Democrat Robert Menendez, who opposed removing Cuba from the list, was forced to step down from his post on the influential Senate Foreign Relations Committee after being indicted on corruption charges.

There are presently only three countries on the list in addition to Cuba, Iran, Sudan, and Syria. According to State Department, countries on the list face restrictions on aid, a ban on arms exports and sales, as well as restrictions on access to international loans.

Cuba was added to the list in 1982 for its support for national liberation movements in Latin America and throughout the continent of Africa such as South Africa’s African National Congress (ANC). By recommending that Cuba be removed from the list, the State Department is affirming that Cuba has not sponsored “terrorist” activity in the last six months.

U.S President Obama ordered a review of Cuba’s inclusion on the list after he, together with Cuban President Raul Castro, announced in December that the two countries would work toward restoring diplomatic relations.

The two heads of state are expected to meet in Panama during the activities of the Summit of the Americas, although no formal bilateral meetings are planned. Their meeting would mark the first encounter between the two leaders since December’s announcement.