U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Friday announced that Cuba would be removed from the list of state sponsors of terrorism, a decision that takes effect immediately, and should pave the way for a normalization of relations between the U.S. and Cuba.
President Obama has been pushing for normalization, but Cuba said this can only happen if it comes off the list.
Obama instructed the State Department to review Cuba’s designation as a state sponsor of terrorism last December. In April, State recommended that Cuba no longer be included under that designation, and Obama notified Congress that he agreed.
That triggered a 45-day waiting period, one that some were hoping Congress would use to fight the decision. But while some members said they opposed the decision, Congress never took any action.
Members of Congress who support ongoing trade and travel restrictions against Cuba say those steps should only be removed after Cuba improves human rights conditions on the island, and takes steps toward democracy. But State said it sees those as separate issues.
“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,” State said in a statement announcing the decision.
In order to no longer be designated as a state sponsor of terrorism, State had to find that Cuba had not provided any support for international terrorism during the previous six-months, and had promised not to support acts of international terrorism in the future.