President Barack Obama announced Wednesday that the U.S. and Cuba will now reestablish diplomatic ties and reopen embassies in their respective capitals. The announcement comes just one month after the Secretary of State removed Cuba from the State Sponsor of Terrorism list. Although it would take an act of Congress to lift the trade embargo, reopening embassies is another brick in the foundation of normalizing trade relations. With the new embassies opening in July, there will be greater contact between the US and the Cuban people which will ultimately lead to a change in the US’s attitude towards the trade embargo.
As you know, the President made a big announcement back in December, 2014 that the US would take historic steps to chart a new course in our diplomatic relations with Cuba. One specific action item was instructing the Secretary of State to immediately launch a review of Cuba’s designation as a State Sponsor of Terrorism, and provide a report to the President within six months regarding Cuba’s support for international terrorism.
Within four months of the President’s announcement, on April 8, 2015 (2 months early!), the Secretary of State finalized their review and recommended that Cuba no longer be designated as a State Sponsor of Terrorism. Thereafter, on April 14, the President sent Congress the statutorily required report indicating the Administration’s intent to rescind Cuba’s State Sponsor of Terrorism designation, including the certification that “Cuba has not provided any support for international terrorism during the previous six-months; and that Cuba has provided assurances that it will not support acts of international terrorism in the future.” Members of Congress, initially vowing to block the removal of Cuba from the “terrorism list” had no legal outlet to voice their opposition, and as of today, the 45-day Congressional pre-notification period has expired. As a result, the Secretary of State has officially made the final decision to rescind Cuba’s designation as a State Sponsor of Terrorism, effective today, May 29, 2015.
The Department of State issued a Press Statement today advising that:
The rescission of Cuba’s designation as a State Sponsor of Terrorism reflects our assessment that Cuba meets the statutory criteria for rescission. While the United States has significant concerns and disagreements with a wide range of Cuba’s policies and actions, these fall outside the criteria relevant to the rescission of a State Sponsor of Terrorism designation