Cuba Not Off Hook, Despite Removal From US Terror List Reply

FILE - The Cuban flag flies in front of the U.S. Interests Section in Havana, May 22, 2015.

FILE – The Cuban flag flies in front of the U.S. Interests Section in Havana, May 22, 2015.

Pamela Dockins, Voice of America

STATE DEPARTMENT— The United States has dropped Cuba from its State Sponsor of Terrorism list but the removal does not clear Havana of all U.S. embargoes and statutory restrictions. The State Department announced Friday that Cuba had been removed from the blacklist – a designation that it shared with Iran, Syria and Sudan.

In an April statement, Secretary of State John Kerry said “circumstances have changed since 1982,” when Cuba was put on the list because of its “efforts to promote armed revolution by forces in Latin America.”

But Cuba still faces U.S. restrictions on transactions such as exports and foreign trade because of other punitive measures that remain in place.

“In addition to the State Sponsor of Terrorism designation, there is a web of restrictions and sanctions that have been applied over the years and some of them are unrelated to the State Sponsor of Terrorism designation,” said State Department spokesman Jeff Rathke.

Among them, is the Helms-Burton Act, which includes an embargo and other financial restrictions.  

Mixed Views on significance of Cuba’s removal

Cuba’s removal from the list is largely symbolic, said William LeoGrande, a Latin American politics professor at American University.   “It is more symbolic than it is practical in the sense that most of the sanctions that fall upon a country that is on the terrorism list already apply to Cuba because of the broader embargo,” he said.   But he said the removal was very important to Cuba, as Washington and Havana work to normalize relations.

Feature continues here: Cuba Off State Sponsor List




FILE – The Cuban flag flies in front of the U.S. Interests Section in Havana, May 22, 2015.

In New Book, Ex-Secretary of State Clinton Says She Urged Obama to End Cuba Embargo 2

obama-clinton-300x159(Atlanta BlackStar) In her new book, former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton says she pushed President Barack Obama to lift or ease the decades-long U.S. embargo on Cuba because it was no longer useful to American interests or promoting change on the communist island.

In excerpts of the book Hard Choices obtained by The Associated Press ahead of its release next week, Clinton writes that the embargo has given communist leaders Fidel and Raul Castro an excuse not to enact democratic reforms. And she says opposition from some in Congress to normalizing relations — “to keep Cuba in a deep freeze” — has hurt both the United States and the Cuban people. She says the 2009 arrest by Cuba of USAID contractor Alan Gross and Havana’s refusal to release him on humanitarian grounds is a “tragedy” for improving ties.

“Since 1960, the United States had maintained an embargo against the island in hopes of squeezing Castro from power, but it only succeeded in giving him a foil to blame for Cuba’s economic woes,” she writes. She says her husband, former President Bill Clinton, tried to improve relations with Cuba in the 1990s, but the Castro government did not respond to the easing in some sanctions. Nonetheless, Obama was determined to continue the effort, she writes.

She says that late in her term in office she urged Obama to reconsider the U.S. embargo. “It wasn’t achieving its goals,” she writes, “and it was holding back our broader agenda across Latin America. … I thought we should shift the onus onto the Castros to explain why they remained undemocratic and abusive.”

Clinton writes that in the face of “a stone wall” from the Castro regime, she and Obama decided to engage directly with the Cuban people.

“We believed that the best way to bring change to Cuba would be to expose its people to the values, information and material comforts of the outside world,” she says.

The steps that Obama took, including allowing more travel to the island and increasing the amount of money Cuban-Americans can send back to the island, have had a positive effect, she writes.

Read the full story at

Obama Urged to Take Lead on Easing Cuba Policy 1

By Guy Taylor, The Washington Times

The Obama administration should — and has the legal authority to — use its executive power to begin lifting the decades-old embargo on trade with Cuba, according to two papers this week issued by an influential Latin America think tank and a leading Cuban exile group. The New York-based Council on the Americas and the Washington-based Cuba Study Group both call on the White House to ease the 60-year-old embargo in order to promote free market activity on the communist island. The State Department so far has declined to comment on the documents, but one official described the Council on the Americas as “influential” and told The Washington Times that the State Department does “appreciate their views.”

Circulation of the white papers came the same week that a delegation of U.S. lawmakers, headed by Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, Vermont Democrat, met with Cuban President Raul Castro in an unsuccessful attempt to secure the release of Maryland contractor Alan Gross, who has been imprisoned in Cuba since 2009. Mr. Gross is accused of illegally bringing communications equipment to Cuba as part of a democracy-building program supported by the U.S. Agency for International Development. His detention remains a source of friction between Washington and Havana.

State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland categorically denied a Boston Globe report Thursday which suggested that newly confirmed Secretary of State John F. Kerry may be seriously considering removing Havana from the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism as a first step to improved relations. Citing interviews with “a series of top administration officials and members of Congress,” the newspaper reported that “there is a growing consensus in policy and intelligence circles that Cuba’s support for terrorist groups has been terminated and the country should be removed from the list — much like the George W. Bush administration did with North Korea in 2008.” Ms. Nuland said The Globe piece was “incorrect,” telling reporters at Thursday’s briefing that “this department has no current plans to remove Cuba from the state sponsor of terrorism list.” She added, however, that officials review the list annually and will do so during 2013.

Questions about Cuba’s status coincide with growing speculation in Washington that Mr. Kerry — a former Democratic senator from Massachusetts — may be eager to push the White House toward an easing of relations with the communist island. Mr. Kerry did not single out Cuba during his wide-ranging foreign policy address Wednesday at the University of Virginia, but he did publish an article in 2009 in The St. Petersburg Times calling for a lifting of all restrictions to travel to the island.

The white papers circulated this week argue that Mr. Obama should do just that despite a law preventing the restoration of U.S.-Cuba diplomatic relations without congressional approval.
The 1996 Helms-Burton Act also blocks the lifting of the embargo on trade unless significant democratic reforms are implemented and a functional democratic government is established on the island. The Cuba Study Group called on Congress to repeal the 1996 law, saying it would allow the White House to “adopt more efficient, targeted policies necessary for pressuring the Cuban leadership to respect human rights and implement political reforms, while simultaneously empowering all other sectors of society to purse their economic well-being and become the authors of their own futures.”

The Council on the Americas paper argues that Mr. Obama could work around restrictions associated with Cuba’s current status as a state sponsor of terrorism. The White House, according to the paper, should “grant exceptions” for “sales and imports” of goods for businesses in Cuba that can prove they are not working for the Castro regime, as well as allowing for the “sale of telecommunications hardware” such as cellphone towers and satellite dishes in Cuba.