Amid concerns, US poised to strike Cuba from terrorism list

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Amid Concerns, US Poised to Strike Cuba From Terrorism List

Thursday brought another milestone in U.S-Cuba relations, as the State Department sent the White House recommendations to remove the county from the State Sponsors of Terrorism list.

Present Obama has not yet announced an acceptance of the recommendation, but while on a one-day trip to Jamaica following the announcement, he did have this to say:

"There's a process involved in reviewing whether or not a country should be on the state-sponsored terrorism list. Our inner agency team will go through the entire thing and present it to me. That hasn't happened yet."

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Amid concerns, US poised to strike Cuba from terrorism list
The U.S. State Department official leading negotiations with the Cuban government said on Wednesday (February 04) the return of the U.S. Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay is not being considered in those talks. "The issue of Guantanamo is not on the table in these conversations," Roberta Jacobson, the assistant secretary of State for the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs, testified during a House of Representatives hearing.
MIAMI, FL - DECEMBER 18: Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) stands near a poster with pictures of those lost from the group called 'Brothers to the Rescue' when they were shot down by Cuban fighter jets in 1996, as he and other congressional people addressed the decision by President Barack Obama to change the United States Cuba policy on December 18, 2014 in Miami, Florida. Mr. Rubio was joined by Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) and Rep Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL) as they held the press conference to denounce the changes to U.S.-Cuba policy by the Obama administration. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
MIAMI, FL - DECEMBER 18: Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) greets Mirta Costa the mother of Carlos Costa, a pilot from a group called 'Brothers to the Rescue' who was shot down by Cuban fighter jets in 1996, as he and other congressional people addressed the decision by President Barack Obama to change the United States Cuba policy on December 18, 2014 in Miami, Florida. Mr. Rubio was joined by Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) (in the Center of photo) and Rep Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL) as they held the press conference to denounce the changes to U.S.-Cuba policy by the Obama administration. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
MIAMI, FL - DECEMBER 18: Osvaldo Hernandez holds a picture of U.S. President Barack Obama as he denouces to a television crew the president's effort to change the Cuban policy on December 18, 2014 in Miami, Florida. A day after U.S. President Barack Obama announced he wants to normalize relations with Cuba, the Miami Cuban community has a mixed reaction with some supporting and other opposing the new policy. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
MIAMI, FL - DECEMBER 19: People wait in line to check luggage at the ABC Charters American Airlines flight to Havana, Cuba at Miami International Airport on December 19, 2014 in Miami, Florida. U.S. President Barack Obama announced a relaxation in the Cuban policy which may mean more travel between the United States and Cuba. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
HAVANA, CUBA - DECEMBER 18: (CHINA OUT, SOUTH KOREA OUT) U.S. visa applicants queue outside the U.S. Interests Section a day after U.S. President Barack Obama and his counterpart Raul Castro announced to restore the diplomatic relationship, on December 18, 2014 in Havana, Cuba. (Photo by The Asahi Shimbun via Getty Images)
MIAMI, FL - DECEMBER 19: A sign indicates the ABC Charters American Airlines flight to Havana, Cuba at Miami International Airport on December 19, 2014 in Miami, Florida. U.S. President Barack Obama announced a relaxation in the Cuban policy which may mean more travel between the United States and Cuba. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
MIAMI, FL - DECEMBER 19: People wait in line to check luggage at the ABC Charters American Airlines flight to Havana, Cuba at Miami International Airport on December 19, 2014 in Miami, Florida. U.S. President Barack Obama announced a relaxation in the Cuban policy which may mean more travel between the United States and Cuba. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - DECEMBER 19: U.S. President Barack Obama pauses during his speech to members of the media during his last news conference of the year in the James Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House December 19, 2014 in Washington, DC. President Obama faced questions on various topics including the changing of Cuba policy, the U.S. economy and the Sony hack. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
MIAMI, FL - DECEMBER 19: People wait in line to check luggage at the ABC Charters American Airlines flight to Havana, Cuba at Miami International Airport on December 19, 2014 in Miami, Florida. U.S. President Barack Obama announced a relaxation in the Cuban policy which may mean more travel between the United States and Cuba. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
Cubans wait near the US Interest Office in Havana to apply for visas, on December 19, 2014. AFP PHOTO/Yamil LAGE (Photo credit should read YAMIL LAGE/AFP/Getty Images)
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Cuba shares a spot on the terrorism list with Iran, Sudan and Syria.

Cuba's place on the list is a huge point of contention for the communist island. Countries on the list are subject to sanctions, including a ban on defense exports and sales, restrictions of U.S. foreign assistance, as well as financial restrictions, including the refusal of U.S. banks to provide service to Cuban diplomats.

And Cuba's removal from the terror list was one of its demands in the ongoing talks to normalize relations between the two countries. The change could clear an avenue for the two nations to open embassies.

But the possibility of Cuba's removal from the terrorism list isn't going over well with all U.S. lawmakers.

One reason for friction: Cuba still provides asylum for some of the U.S.'s most high-profile fugitives, including Joanne Chesimard, one of the FBI's most wanted terrorists, along with members of terrorist organizations like the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia.

One of the most vocal opponents of Cuba's removal from the terrorism list has been Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, who has Cuban roots. Last month Rubio sent a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry.

It said, in part, "The Castro regime harbors terrorists who have killed Americans, actively supports designated Foreign Terrorist Organizations by harboring their members and continues to flout international law through clandestine weapon transfers with a rogue regime like North Korea."

The two nations have maintained close ties for decades, both housing embassies in the others' capital. And multiple times, Cuban weapons have been found on North Korean ships heading back to the Hermit Kingdom.

​But it doesn't seem that those concerns will halt an effort to continue mending ties between the U.S. and Cuba. If Obama does accept the recommendation to remove Cuba from the terrorism list, Congress would have 45 days to decide if it will override the decision.

Obama and Castro are expected to meet during the Summit of the Americas in Panama City Friday. It would mark the first meeting between U.S. and Cuban leaders since 1956.



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