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Thread: U.S. to recommend taking Cuba off state terrorism list in days: CNN

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    Default U.S. to recommend taking Cuba off state terrorism list in days: CNN

    U.S. could recommend taking Cuba off state terrorism list in days -official | Reuters

    U.S. to recommend taking Cuba off state terrorism list in days: CNN


    (Reuters) - The U.S. State Department is expected to recommend within a day or two that Cuba be removed from its list of countries accused of sponsoring terrorism, CNN reported on Tuesday.

    President Barack Obama ordered the review of Cuba's inclusion on the list after announcing a diplomatic breakthrough with Havana on Dec. 17.

    Obama leaves on Wednesday for a trip to Jamaica and Panama, where he will participate in a summit of the Americas and come face-to-face with Cuban President Raul Castro.

    Ben Rhodes, White House deputy national security adviser, said earlier the State Department's review was nearing its conclusion but he could not predict the timing. Cuba's continued presence on the U.S. blacklist is a major sticking point in the country's efforts to restore relations and re-open embassies.

    "We expect that it's likely in the final stages. But we don’t control the timing. The State Department does," he told reporters in a conference call Tuesday morning.

    Obama has vowed to act quickly once he receives a State Department recommendation on whether to remove Cuba from the U.S. list of terrorism-sponsoring countries.

    Asked about the CNN report, which cited an unidentified State Department official, an administration source told Reuters: "We haven't received a recommendation from the State Department. The review is ongoing there. We can't speak to what their recommendation might be."

    (Reporting by Doina Chiacu and Matt Spetalnick; Editing by Lisa Lambert)

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    Why Cuba’s Removal From U.S. Terrorism List Is Going to Be a Big Deal - ABC News

    Why Cuba’s Removal From U.S. Terrorism List Is Going to Be a Big Deal

    Apr 9, 2015, 2:36 PM ET

    The State Department has completed its review of Cuba's status as a state sponsor of international terrorism, President Obama announced today from Jamaica, bringing the U.S. one step closer to a potentially momentous policy shift towards the Communist stronghold.

    President Obama said he would not announce any decision today about removing Cuba from the list and that the White House was still reviewing the report.

    Cuban negotiators have made clear during talks with Washington aimed at reestablishing diplomatic and economic ties that the relationship could never be considered normal as long as Cuba was designated a sponsor of terrorism by the U.S. State Department.

    It's possible President Obama will announce a final decision on his upcoming trip to Panama where he'll attend the Summit of the Americas and meet with all 35 heads of state from across the region.

    Here’s what you need to know about Cuba’s place on the list and what’s likely to happen next:

    Why Was Cuba on the list in the first place?

    Cuba was added to the terror list in 1982. To be on the list it must be determined the country “repeatedly provided support for acts of international terrorism,” according to the State Department’s website. Cuba stands accused by the U.S. of providing support to terrorist organizations in Latin America, including the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC. But the State Department admits those ties have “become more distant,” and last December President Obama announced the State Department would be reviewing Cuba’s designation to that list.

    What other countries are on the list?

    Cuba is one of only four countries sharing that designation, including Iran, Sudan and Syria.

    What has President Obama said about re-evaluating Cuba’s status?

    In an interview on National Public Radio this week, President Obama said he’d be “taking a very close look" at the State Department’s coming recommendation. "I think there's a real opportunity here,” Obama said. “I don't expect immediate transformation in the Cuban-American relationship overnight. But I do see the possibility--a great hunger within Cuba--to begin a change, a process that ultimately, I think, can lead to more freedom and more opportunity.”

    Could Congress get involved?

    The president has the option to give Congress a 45-day notice before lifting the designation, but Congress would have to pass a veto-proof measure if they wanted to overturn the president’s decision. That means Congress would need over a two-thirds majority of both houses. That’s extremely unlikely to happen and aside from the members of the so-called Cuba caucus (anti-Castro, Floridian lawmakers) a decision is not expected to make too many waves. “We saw this as a foregone conclusion the day the president announced the review,” one Congressional staff member told ABC News.

    What do the Cubans think?

    Cuba’s leading diplomat told ABC News in February that the decision to put them on the list has always been political. “People are in disbelief every time they realize that Cuba has been included in the list of so called state-sponsors of terrorism,” Josefina Vidal told Jim Avila in an exclusive interview. “It has always been a political decision, not a decision based on real facts. Because it’s a fact of life, that from the territory of Cuba, terrorism has never been organized, financed, or executed or implemented toward any country in the world including the United States.”

    Vidal and other Cuban negotiators also point out that the financial sanctions associated with the terrorist designation directly hamper the negotiations themselves. The banking sanctions are so strict that Cuban diplomats can’t even use a credit card while in the U.S. for negotiations in Washington, D.C., or the United Nations in New York. The interest section cannot even accept credit cards for visa applications. They complain it’s not feasible to open an embassy with cash only.

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    Obama calls for Cuba to be taken off state sponsors of terror list | Miami Herald Miami Herald

    Cuba removed from list of state sponsors of terror

    By Mimi Whitefield

    After 33 years of designating Cuba a state sponsor of terrorism, the United States is removing its Caribbean neighbor from a list of terrorist nations in another sign of warming relations between the two countries.

    President Barack Obama sent a message to Congress Tuesday saying Cuba would be removed from the list because it had not provided any support for international terrorism during the preceding six months and that Cuba had provided assurances that it would not support acts of international terrorism in the future.

    The State Department began a review of whether Cuba should still have a place on the list of state sponsors of terrorism on Dec. 17, the day Cuba and the United States announced they planned to put more than a half century of hostility behind them and work toward normalizing relations. It forwarded its recommendation to the president last week.

    In accordance with U.S. law, President Barack Obama is required to inform Congress 45 days before the directive takes effect. Congress doesn’t have to validate his decision but it could decide to take action to override his recommendation.

    South Florida Rep. Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen promptly condemned the action, calling it “a miscarriage of justice borne out of political motivations not rooted in reality.”

    But Maryland Sen. Benjamin Cardin, who became the ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee after New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez — an outspoken critic of White House Cuba policy — stepped aside, called the State Department’s recommendation “an important step forward in our efforts to forge a more fruitful relationship with Cuba.”

    Pedro Freyre, a Miami lawyer, said removing Cuba from the list “means the removal of a whole range of legislative and legal restrictions.”

    A 2006 state law, for example, doesn’t allow any money that goes to a Florida state university, including grants from private foundations, to be used to organize, direct or coordinate travel to any country designated a state sponsor of terrorism. Scholars have complained that the restriction has complicated their research efforts.

    Cuba’s presence on the list made banks reluctant to handle the accounts of its diplomatic missions in Washington D.C. and at the United Nations. The two missions have been working on a cash basis for more than year after their former banker, M&T Bank, told them it was getting out of the business of handling the accounts of foreign missions.

    No other bank has come forward because of fears of regulatory retaliation and they have had good reason to be cautious. The French bank BNP Paribas, for example, was fined $8.9 billion for concealing U.S. dollar transactions with Sudan, Iran and Cuba, and other banks have received heavy fines for transactions involving countries on the list.

    Cuba’s removal from the terror list should make it easier for its missions to find a bank.

    “Now that burden of regulatory risk will diminish — although it won’t disappear,” said Freyre, chairman of the Akerman law firm’s international practice.

    Removal from the list is also a first step toward Cuba’s gaining “much-needed access” to financial markets and having representation in multilateral financial institutions, said Jason Marczak, deputy director of the Atlantic Council’s Adrienne Arsht Latin America Center.

    “Eventual membership in the International Monetary Fund and access to development assistance through the World Bank will be instrumental in facilitating Cuba’s full integration into the international financial system and supporting a stronger economy in which Cubans can thrive and U.S. businesses can invest,” he said.

    But there are a number of hurdles along that path, including U.S. sanctions that “prevent the U.S. from voting for Cuba’s ascension into international financial institutions,” Marczak said. Congress would have to vote to lift them.

    Craig Alexander, senior vice president and chief economist of Canada’s TD Bank Group, said the new relationship with Cuba could also increase some Canadian companies’ interest in doing business with the United States.

    Canadian businesses active in Cuba have limited their U.S. business activities, he said. “Now they can engage more with U.S. companies without running into regulatory problems. This actually makes doing business easier.”

    Cuba was added to the list of state sponsors of terrorism on March 1, 1982, because of its training and arming of communist rebels in Africa and Latin America.

    In its most recent report on worldwide terrorism in 2013, the State Department said: “There was no indication that the Cuban government provided weapons or paramilitary training to terrorist groups.”

    Opponents of removing Cuba from the terrorism list, however, have made much of two clandestine weapons shipments.

    In 2013, a North Korean freighter coming from Cuba and about to transit the Panama Canal was found to be transporting two MIG-21 jets and other undeclared war materiel under sacks of brown sugar. The North Korean shipping company that carried the cargo was sanctioned by the United Nations for violating restrictions on trafficking of weapons systems but Cuba was not.

    Last month a Hong Kong-registered vessel headed to Cuba carrying an unregistered cargo of ammunition and gunpowder was impounded in the Colombian port of Cartagena and the captain ordered arrested. China has insisted it was part of normal trade.

    Ben Rhodes, a deputy National Security advisor and one of the architects of the new Cuba policy, said removal from the list doesn’t mean the United States is in agreement with a country’s political system or foreign policy or what it does. “It’s a very practical review of whether or not a government is sponsoring terrorism,” he said.

    The State Department’s 2013 terrorism report concentrated most of its attention on the activities of the Al Qaeda and Hezbollah terror groups rather than Cuba.

    In the very short section on Cuba, it said: “Cuba has long provided safe haven to members of Basque Fatherland and Liberty (ETA) and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).

    But the report also noted that Cuba had hosted and supported peace negotiations between the FARC and Colombia government, and said Cuba’s ties to ETA have become more distant.

    The report also mentioned that the Cuban government continues to harbor fugitives wanted in the United States and provides support for them, but did not specify how many fugitives or name them.

    Cuba acknowledges that it has granted political asylum to a small number of U.S. fugitives, including JoAnne Chesimard, a member of the Black Liberation Army who is known as Assata Shakur. On the FBI’s list of most wanted terrorists, she was convicted in the 1973 murder of a New Jersey state trooper and fled to Cuba after a jail break.

    Also believed to be living in Cuba is William Morales, the Puerto Rican separatist and bombmaker, who was convicted and sentenced to 99 years in connection with a 1975 blast that killed four people. He escaped from a New York prison ward in 1979 and lived in Mexico before heading to Cuba.

    During the second round of talks between the United States and Cuba in February, Josefina Vidal, Cuba’s chief negotiator, said Cuba didn’t want to discuss returning people that now have political asylum. Once they are granted asylum, she said, “It can’t be a part of this type of talks.”

    Cuba has said that the United States also harbors fugitives from Cuban justice such as Luis Posada Carriles, who has been accused of plotting the 1976 bombing of a Cubana airliner in which 73 people lost their lives.

    Ros-Lehtinen said taking Cuba off the list denies justice for victims such as Werner Foerster, the trooper killed by Shakur, and the South Florida pilots of the 1996 shootdown of two Brothers to the Rescue planes as they approached Cuba.

    “U.S. law is clear that a country cannot be removed from the SST list if it has not changed its policies and so long as the country is still supporting acts of international terrorism, but President Obama is yet again willing to circumvent the law by ignoring the Castro brothers continued policies in support of terrorism by providing safe haven to foreign terrorist organizations and repeated violations of international sanctions,” she said in a statement.

    Among the countries no longer on the list is North Korea, which was designated after a 1987 bombing of a South Korean airliner that resulted in 100 deaths. It stayed on the list from 1988 until 2008 when President George W. Bush removed the designation after North Korea agreed to take steps to disable its nuclear program.

    But there have been calls to once again put North Korea on the list for various actions, including last year’s cyber attack on Sony Pictures and threats against movie theaters and patrons. In January, the president imposed additional economic sanctions on North Korea.

    A pending deal with Iran to curb its nuclear program could result in lifting of sanctions against Tehran if the framework holds up and Iran abides by its commitments.

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