On Tuesday, President Obama’s announcement of his intention to remove Cuba from the list of state sponsors of terrorism (SSOT) was received with both praise and dissent from Cuban and U.S. politicians. Despite the controversy, the announcement marks a significant change in not only U.S.-Cuba relations, but also U.S.-Latin America relations.
The announcement followed President Obama’s meeting with Cuban President Raúl Castro at the Summit of the Americas in Panama last week, where Cuba made an inaugural appearance and where the two countries’ heads of state met officially face-to-face for the first time since 1959. Cuba’s designation as an SSOT was one of the “sticking points” in the negotiations to normalize diplomatic relations with Cuba.
President Obama said that Cuba had “provided assurances that it will not support acts of international terrorism in the future.” White House press secretary Josh Earnest added that although the U.S. still had differences with Cuban policies and actions, they were not “relevant” to the terror list.
The director of U.S. relations at Cuba’s Foreign Ministry, Josefina Vidal, acknowledged the U.S.’s move in a statement: “The government of Cuba recognizes the just decision made by the President of the United States to remove Cuba from a list on which it never deserved to belong […] As the Cuban government has reiterated on multiple occasions, Cuba rejects and condemns all acts of terrorism.”
House Speaker John Boehner, however, said he was very “disappointed” by the announcement. “Cozying up to the oppressive regime in Cuba is a blow to all who long for liberty and dignity,” Boehner said, adding that “The United States has a responsibility to stand strong for all those who struggle for freedom, and the House of Representatives is committed to doing its part.”
According to the legal process for lifting the SSOT designation, the report must be submitted to the House Speaker, John Boehner, chairman of the Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs, Richard Shelby, and the chairman of the Committee on Foreign Relations, Bob Corker. Thereafter, Congress would have 45 days to review and if opposed, enact a joint resolution to prohibit President Obama’s proposed decision. If Congress does not actively block the decision, Cuba will be effectively removed from SSOT list at the end of the period.
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