The Obama administration made waves late last year by initiating the so-called Cuban Thaw, an initiative to normalize relations with Cuba after decades of mistrust. While this process would result in a considerable change in the dynamic between the two countries, the State Department has retained Cuba on the State Sponsors of Terror list. Now, the administration is considering dropping this designation too, a possibility that has people on both sides of the argument butting heads.
Those who want to see Cuba removed from the State Department’s list of terror sponsors claim that its place on the list was earned in a different time entirely. Cuba landed on the list in 1982 after its ties to Spanish and Colombian guerrilla groups came to light. However, Cuba has also earned a reputation in the international community for working to counteract such groups in recent years, and Cuba supporters claim that these efforts should be proof enough.
However, those who want to see Cuba stay on the list of terrorism sponsors see this initiative as nothing more than a political stunt on Obama’s part. While Cuba may not still actively support terrorist organizations, Cuban people still suffer from an autocratic regime that has resisted any substantial democratic changes. Obama’s insistence on normalizing relations with Cuba, critics say, only serves to legitimize Cuban president Raul Castro’s abuse of power.
Cuba has a significant vested interest in seeing its name stricken from the Sponsors of Terror list. The country still suffers from an unforgiving embargo, but if the US were to remove Cuba from the list, such a move could signal that the embargo would be lifted next. In order to proceed, Cuba would have to vow to the US that it does not condone or support any terrorist organizations.
The only force that could stop the Obama administration from carrying out its mission to normalize relations with Cuba is Congress, which has a Republican majority that would be required to sign off on the initiative once Cuba has made its vow. However, President Obama ultimately wields the power to sidestep Congress on the issue, and given his efforts thus far, experts believe such a move is likely.
Raul Castro Photo by Sven Creutzmann/Mambo photo/Getty Images