White House expected to remove Cuba from state sponsor of terrorism list
US and Cuba aiming to restore diplomatic ties after more than three decades
May 25, 2015 10:27PM ET
by Sara Hassan
The White House is expected to remove Cuba from the United States' state
sponsor of terrorism list later this week. Despite progress during the
talks between the two countries, negotiators have failed to reach an
agreement on exchanging ambassadors.
The assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs, Roberta
Jacobson, said, "We made great progress … but we still have a few things
that need to be ironed out, and we're going to do that as quickly as
possible. I do remain optimistic, but I'm also a realist about 54 years
that we have to overcome."
Cuba was placed on the U.S. sponsor or terrorism list during Ronald
Reagan's administration in 1982. It's one of four other countries on the
list, along with Iran, Sudan and Syria.
Cuba and the U.S. were once close to sparking a global nuclear war.
Former Cuban President Fidel Castro nationalized all businesses in his
country after taking power, prompting the United States to close its
embassy in Havana in 1961 and impose a crippling embargo. Later that
year, the U.S. tried to overthrow Castro in a failed coup known as the
Bay of Pigs incident.
Castro then turned to the Soviet Union for help, setting off decades of
mistrust between Washington and Havana.
It wasn't until 2012, when Raúl Castro took over power from his ailing
brother Fidel Castro, that Cuba suggested normalizing relations with the
United States. U.S. President Barack Obama responded by easing some
restrictions on financial transactions with Cuban parties and
kick-starting talks in January.
Not everyone is on board with the president's strategy, but many are
optimistic about better relations between the two countries.
During Al Jazeera America's Sunday night segment The Week Ahead, Lisa
Fletcher spoke to Christopher Sabatini, the founder and editor-in-chief
of the website Latin America Goes Global, and Paul Bonicelli, a former
assistant administrator at USAID.
Bonicelli said that he does not agree with Obama's approach on the
negotiations. "The president hasn't really required concessions from
this government," he said. "The Castro brothers are running a
dictatorship, and you would think that the president would require at
least some movement on politics, on economics and on our national
security interests before he's willing to give them everything. He could
have gotten a lot of Republican support for that kind of negotiation,
but he hasn't asked for anything in return."
Sabatini said, however, that the Cuban government made changes even
before Obama's announcement in December to begin negotiations. "Right
now Cuba has far fewer political prisoners than it has had in decades,"
he said. "Detentions and harassment continue, but there have also been
economic reforms. There were over 400,000 entrepreneurs that Cuba's
allowing to help grow the economy and help bolster socialism. That's
been really important in creating some space for civic activism."
Bonicelli disagreed, saying "entrepreneurial activity is not up in Cuba.
In fact, the number is down over the years because the Cuban government
has been more talk than action. I think the president missed a great
opportunity to sit down with Congress and get a bipartisan deal."
Sabatini said that there is a better chance for success with diplomatic
negotiations. He said, "Cuba hasn't been engaging in sponsoring
terrorism for decades. In fact, it is sponsoring a peace negotiation
between the FARC [Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia] guerrillas and
the Colombian government, one of our allies."
When asked how opening U.S. trade with Cuba would be different from what
Canada and Europe have been doing with the island for decades, Sabatini
said "neither of them is 90 miles off the coast of Cuba, and neither of
them have close to 2 million Cubans living on their shores." He added
that once the Castro brothers are out of power, "we need to be engaged
in Cuba. We cannot risk having that regime collapse without us having
some sort of stake in its present if we want to have a role in the future."
Source: Cuba to Be Removed From Sponsor of Terrorism List | Al Jazeera