Cuba Sees an OpeningThe State Department is reportedly considering dropping Cuba’s designation as a state sponsor of terrorism. Doing so would hand Havana a major – and unmerited – diplomatic victory.
Cuba’s Castro brothers have spent billions of dollars over the last decade seducing U.S. farm bureaus and agri-business to lobby Congress to support lifting sanctions on Cuba. Recently recognizing that Congress is unlikely to support unconditional changes, and perceiving a possible opening with the new Secretary of State John Kerry, Castro lobbyists have shifted their focus to the Obama administration and a related goal: the removal of Cuba from the State Department’s list of state sponsors of terrorism.
Kerry supported unilaterally easing sanctions on Cuba during his Senate career, and speculation that the State Department is considering removing Cuba from the state sponsor list – which also includes Iran, Sudan, and Syria – has been spurred by news reports citing contradictory remarks from anonymous administration sources. Some high-level diplomats have suggested Cuba be dropped from the list, according to the Boston Globe. But the State Department’s spokesperson Victoria Nuland clarified in late February that it had “no current plans” to change Cuba’s designation as a state sponsor of terrorism. However, that has not slowed efforts by those seeking rapprochement with the Castro regime, as a final decision will not be officially revealed until April 30.
Cuba has been on the state sponsors of terrorism list since 1982 due to its hostile acts and support of armed insurgency groups. While being on the list of terrorist sponsors imposes sanctions such as prohibiting the United States from selling arms or providing economic assistance, removing Cuba from that list would have little effect on these sanctions, as these were separately codified in 1996. However, it would certainly hand the Castro brothers a major – and unmerited – diplomatic victory. The Castros have long protested and sought to escape the ostracism associated with the terrorism listing, while refusing to modify the egregious behavior that earned them the designation. They are also hoping the change could improve their standing among otherwise reluctant members of Congress and lead to an unconditional lifting of sanctions in the near future.
Pursuant to the statutory criteria stipulated under Section 6(j) of the Export Administration Act (as currently re-authorized under the International Emergency Economic Powers Act), Cuba can only be removed from the state sponsors of terrorism list in two ways:
Option one is to have the U.S. president submit a report to Congress certifying that there has been a fundamental change in the leadership and policies of Cuba’s government, that Cuba no longer supports acts of international terrorism, and that Cuba has provided “assurances” that it will not support acts of international terrorism in the future.
The Castros have long protested and sought to escape the ostracism associated with the terrorism listing, while refusing to modify the egregious behavior that earned them the designation.
It would be disingenuous for anyone to argue that there has been a “fundamental change” when the Castros have ruled Cuba with an iron fist for 54 years. Option one does not pass the laugh test.
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