President Obama will rescind the State Sponsor of Terrorism designation placed on Cuba without obtaining any concessions from the brutal communist regime. After review, the president submitted to Congress the requisite report and certifications, a move the White House attempted to defend Tuesday by claiming it has been 6 months since Cuba supported terrorism.
Secretary of State John Kerry said the United States “has and continues to have significant concerns and disagreements with a wide range of Cuba’s policies and actions.”
However, critics point to the questionable review process by the State Department used as a premise for Obama’s decision. The review only considered whether Cuba supported international terrorism over the past 6 months and whether the country provided assurances they would not support acts of international terrorism in the future.
“The decision made by the White House today is a terrible one, but not surprising,” said Rubio, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and 2016 presidential candidate. “Cuba is a state sponsor of terrorism. They harbor fugitives of American justice.”
The Republican-controlled Congress now has 45 days to vote to support or block the decision to further normalize relations with Cuba. It will face some degree of bipartisan opposition, including from the outspoken critic Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., a Cuban-American recently and suspiciously charged with corruption by the Justice Department.
Menendez and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie have been arguing the president should demand Cuba return convicted cop-killer Joanne Chesimard before normalizing diplomatic relations with that country.
Chesimard was found guilty of killing New Jersey State Trooper Werner Foerster in 1973 before she escaped from prison and fled to Cuba, where notorious socialist dictator President Fidel Castro gave her asylum. Fidel’s brother Raul, an equally oppressive tyrant, now leads the still-communist country.
The 67-year-old Chesimard, who now goes by the name of Assata Shakur in Cuba, has been given safe haven by the Cuban government ever since.
“Cuba’s provision of safe harbor to Chesimard by providing political asylum to a convicted cop killer … is an affront to every resident of our state, our country, and in particular, the men and women of the New Jersey State Police,” Christie wrote in a letter. “I urge you to demand the immediate return of Chesimard before any further consideration of restoration of diplomatic relations with the Cuban government.”
Menendez brought the case up again last weekend on Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace as the president met with Cuban dictator President Raul Castro at the Summit of the Americas.
For Castro, removal from the terror list is a top priority, as it would greatly increase his ability to conduct financial transactions. Castro said Cuba should never have been on the list in the first place.
“Yes, we have conducted solidarity with other peoples that could be considered terrorism — when we were cornered, when we were strongly harassed,” he said. “We had no other choice but to give up or to fight back.”
Meanwhile, Rubio chose to announcement his presidential bid Tuesday at the Miami Freedom Tower, a move that sent a clear message.
“This sends a chilling message to our enemies aboard that this White House is no longer serious about calling terrorism by its proper name,” Sen. Rubio said.
Cuba, which was first put on the list in 1982 for promoting armed revolution by global organizations that used terrorism, was one of four countries on the U.S. list accused of repeatedly supporting global terrorism. The remaining countries are Iran, Syria and Sudan.
A top Senate Democrat immediately hailed the president’s decision.
“The removal of Cuba from the … list is a welcome move,” said Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin, the chamber’s No. 2 Democrat. “ While no fan of the Castro regime, I continue to believe that opening up the island to American ideas, vibrancy, and trade is the most effective way to see a more open and tolerant Cuba.”