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Cuba Officially Removed From U.S. State Sponsor of Terrorism List

Move, which follows a 45-day congressional review, clears hurdle for re-establishing diplomatic ties

A woman walks past graffiti of Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara and a Cuban flag in Havana on Thursday. ENLARGE 
A woman walks past graffiti of Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara and a Cuban flag in Havana on Thursday. Photo: Reuters By 
Felicia Schwartz

WASHINGTON—The U.S. officially lifted its designation of Cuba as a state sponsor of terror on Friday, the State Department said, clearing a hurdle to re-establishing diplomatic ties between Washington and Havana.
President Barack Obama recommended to Congress last month that Cuba be removed from the list, triggering a 45-day congressional notification period in which lawmakers could have challenged the decision. Though Mr. Obama’s Cuba policy has opponents on both sides of the aisle, lawmakers didn’t take steps to challenge Cuba’s removal from the list.

From the Archives

President Obama with President Castro in April.
The State Department said it was still at odds with many of Cuba’s policies, but those policies don’t support its continued inclusion on the list.
“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 Department spokesman Jeff Rathke said.
Countries on the list—which now include only Iran, Sudan and Syria—are banned from U.S. arms and exports sales as well as from U.S. economic assistance in addition to a wide variety of additional financial restrictions. The Cubans have pointed to the terrorism designation as a barrier to going ahead with plans to reopen embassies.
Cuba and Washington haven’t had embassies in each other’s countries since 1961. The U.S. action Friday helps pave the way to elevating lower-level diplomatic posts in Washington and Havana into embassies, a first step in what will be a lengthy process to normalize ties after a decadeslong Cold War freeze.
Washington will keep other restrictions on Cuban trade and travel that are mandated by other laws. As part of the broader normalization, Mr. Obama has called on Congress to fully lift a U.S. embargo. There is no timetable for congressional action.
U.S. and Cuban officials said last week that re-establishing embassies might not require another in person round and could be completed soon. A last barrier is the U.S. desire for Cuban assurances to loosen restrictions on travel by American diplomats across the island.
Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Roberta Jacobson has said that the U.S. Embassy in Cuba is likely to operate similarly to other U.S. embassies in countries with restrictive governments, including some controls on staff travels.
Cuba’s removal from the terror list could free up some economic, political and cultural contacts, particularly between Cuba and U.S. states, said Jason Marczak, deputy director of the Atlantic Council’s Adrienne Arsht Latin America Center. Florida, for example, has a law barring universities that receive state funding from sponsoring travel to countries that are state sponsors of terrorism. Cuba should also have better access to global markets now that it is no longer on the list.
Cuba’s presence on the list also had hindered Cuba’s efforts to find a bank to handle the accounts of Cuba’s U.S. representative body, called the Cuban Interests Section. But last week, the State Department helped Cuba secure Florida-based Stonegate Bank as its lender.
The U.S. added Cuba to the list in 1982, citing Havana’s role in supporting leftist insurgents in Latin America. Its continued presence on the list was tied most recently to its provision of haven to the members of the Basque separatist group ETA as well as Colombia’s left-wing FARC rebel group.
State Department officials said they conducted a thorough review to back their recommendation to remove Cuba from the list and received assurances from the Cuban government they wouldn't support terrorist activity in the future. Officials cited Cuban President Raúl Castro’s condemnation of the Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris earlier this year as an example of the government’s stance against terror operations.
Cuba also harbors fugitives wanted in the U.S., including Joanne Chesimard, who is on the FBI’s Most Wanted Terrorists list for killing a New Jersey state trooper in 1973. Cuba granted her asylum after she escaped from prison in 1979. State Department officials said last month that Cuba had agreed to talk about fugitives as part of a broader dialogue on law enforcement issues.
After the State Department’s review, Secretary of State John Kerry recommended to Mr. Obama that Cuba be removed from the list, triggering the 45-day congressional review period. Mr. Kerry on Friday signed an order removing Cuba formally.
Write to Felicia Schwartz at 

Congress votes to ban transfer of Guantanamo detainees to US

POSTED: 10:27 AM MST Nov 10, 2015  UPDATED: 11:10 AM MST Nov 10, 2015 
Congress has passed a $607 billion defense bill that bans moving Guantanamo Bay detainees to the United States - something Barack Obama has been trying to do since he was sworn in as president.
The Senate's vote of 91 to 3 gave final legislative approval to the measure. The House has already passed it with a veto-proof majority, 370-58.
Obama does not like the Guantanamo provisions. But so far, the White House has not threatened to veto the bill.
The legislation has become a lightning rod for debate over whether the president needs congressional approval to move some of the remaining 112 detainees from the U.S. detention center in Cuba to the United States, or if he could do it with an executive order.

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