Finally, U.S. Drops Cuba From Terror List | Independent Newspapers Limited
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Finally, U.S. Drops Cuba From Terror List

Posted: May 31, 2015 at 5:44 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

By Ejikeme Omenazu (With Agency Reports)

Finally, the United States has formally dropped Cuba from its list of state sponsors of terrorism, the State Department announced on Friday, May 29, 2015, adding a symbolic punctuation mark to talks that aim to end decades of antagonism.

The removal of Cuba from the terrorism list eliminates an obstacle to restoring diplomatic ties between the countries after a 50-year estrangement.

Cuban diplomats had urged rescission as a condition of normalising relations, alongside the restoration of bank services for Cubans in the US.

But, the removal will have a limited impact on US economic sanctions, which remain in place under the embargo that has been imposed by Congress for decades.

Rescinding the designation against Cuba is “an important step”, an American official told Reuters, before qualifying that “as a practical matter, most restrictions related to exports and foreign aid will remain due to the comprehensive trade and arms embargo”.

Taking Cuba off the list has two main consequences, diplomatic and economic, said Christopher Sabatini, a Columbia University professor who specialises in Cuba studies.

“This is something that for a long time sort of stuck in the craw of the Cubans, who really resented being lumped together with countries like Iran and Syria,” he said.

“So it’s important on a diplomatic, transactional level, and on a financial one while it doesn’t remove all the obstacles, it eases the possibility of one of Obama’s principle reforms and opens up opportunities for US travellers and banks.”

Sabatini said that with Cuba off the list, American banks and credit card companies would have less to fear of the risks to their reputation and finances that could be imposed by the bad publicity and potential fines of doing business with a designated sponsor of terror.

The next steps, Sabatini suggested, were discussions about freedom of movement for American diplomats in Cuba, who face tight restrictions on where they can go and whom they can meet, for fear of their fomenting dissent among citizens.

“This is a game of chess,” Sabatini said. “These are not friendly countries, there are decades of distrust. But the next move is basically Cuba’s for normalizing relations, and the question is will it allow for the unfettered travel of US diplomats.

“President Obama has gone out on a limb here, it’s a risky move. There’s very vocal opposition to these changes and they will cry foul unless these concessions are reciprocated.”

While some businesses and travelers have taken advantage of the relaxed rules surrounding Cuba, major banks and financial institutions remain wary of the legal minefield put in place by the embargo. “The embargo is still the big 800lb gorilla in the room,” said David Schwartz, chief executive of the Florida International Bankers Association. “Lifting the terror designation is a help to foreign banks that are dealing with Cuba and have had that concern, and this may in their mind ease that burden.

“But although the administration is pushing to the limit of what they can do, to go any further would require lifting the embargo,” he said.

In December, Obama ordered the State Department to review Cuba’s presence on the terror list and report back to him within six months, as part of his administration’s new policy toward the island nation.