US drops Cuba from terror blacklist in landmark move
The decision means Cuba will now have better access to US banking facilities and American aid, and a ban on arms exports and sales is also lifted.
It also wipes out an international stigma which Havana — on the blacklist since 1982 — has long contended was groundless and unfair.
US President Barack Obama had notified Congress earlier this year that he intended to remove Havana from the list, giving lawmakers 45 days to object, which elapsed Friday.
Now Secretary of State John Kerry “has made the final decision to rescind Cuba’s designation as a state sponsor of terrorism, effective today, May 29, 2015,” the State Department said in a statement.
“The rescission of Cuba’s designation as a state sponsor of terrorism reflects our assessment that Cuba meets the statutory criteria for rescission,” the statement said.
“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.”
It is just the latest ground-breaking development in a fast-moving rapprochement between the Cold War foes, after Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro agreed in December to restore relations that have languished in the doldrums since 1961.
Obama paid a surprise visit on Thursday to a Miami religious shrine popular with Cuban exiles to “honor the sacrifices that Cuban-Americans have made in their pursuit of liberty and opportunity, as well as their extraordinary contributions to our country,” a White House spokeswoman said.
The visit had special significance, recognizing the instrumental role of the Catholic church and Pope Francis’s successful intervention in improving ties between Havana and Washington.