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Obama: Cuba to be Removed from Terror List

The island nation's designation as a state sponsor of terrorism was a major sticking point as the U.S. and Cuba normalize relations

U.S. President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raúl Castro shake hands at the Summit of the Americas in Panama City, Panama, Saturday, April 11, 2015. (Photo: AP)

U.S. President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raúl Castro shake hands at the Summit of the Americas in Panama City, Panama, Saturday, April 11, 2015. (Photo: AP)

U.S. President Barack Obama intends to remove Cuba from the American government's list of state sponsors of terrorism, news outlets reported Tuesday afternoon.

The news came after a much-anticipated meeting between Obama and Cuban President Raúl Castro during last weekend's Summit of the Americas meeting in Panama, the first such formal session between leaders of the two countries in more than 50 years. 

Cuba has been on the U.S. blacklist of state sponsors of terrorism—a designation shared only by Iran, Sudan, and Syria—for more than 30 years. Obama ordered a review of the nation's status in December, as he and Castro agreed to move toward normal relations.

As the New York Times explains: "Cuba's place on the list has long snarled its access to financial markets and, more recently, emerged as a sticking point in negotiations to reopen embassies that have officially been closed for five decades."

And Keith Bolender, freelance journalist and author of Voices From the Other Side: An Oral History of Terrorism Against Cuba, noted on Monday that Cuba's inclusion on the list "has long been opposed by the Castro government for its hypocrisy based on the long history of terrorism the United States has supported against Cuba."

Echoing Bolender's claim, CODEPINK declared in a statement:

In addition to the economic embargo imposed in 1962, Cuba has unjustly languished on the U.S. State Department’s state-sponsored terror list since 1982—despite posing no threat to the United States’ national security. Today, we are happy to note that this has finally changed.

It was President Ronald Reagan who put Cuba on the terrorism list. He sought to blacklist Cuba’s support for leftist movements in Central and South America, movements that challenged US hegemony in the region. And after denouncing Cuba as a sponsor of terrorism, Reagan pursued his own campaign in Central and South America—funding the extreme right, conducting covert military actions, brokering illegal arms deals, and attempting coup d’etats.

With this sticking point out of the way, it's likely that the two countries will "move quickly to formally restore relations and reopen embassies in Havana and Washington," according to the Washington Post.

First, however, Obama will send his decision to Congress, which has 45 days to consider the new policy. ABC News reports: "Should Congress seek to block the measure, it would need to create a veto-proof law declaring Cuba remains a state sponsor of terrorism. It's unlikely Congress has votes to complete such a task."

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