The elimination of Cuba from the list of countries that sponsor terrorism “could occur in the near future,” Stefan M. Selig, the United States’ Assistant Secretary of International Commerce said on Wednesday.
Cuba “must be eliminated from that list because the world has changed since the time in which they were included. It’s consistent with the politics of President Barack Obama,” Selig said during a news conference at NASDAQ headquarters in New York.
During his participation in a Cuba conference, organized by Knowledge@Wharton, a publication of the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania, Selig defended the normalization of relations with Cuba as a “strategic decision” that favors the Cuban people and pointed out that “lifting the embargo is what’s correct.”
On the other hand, Roberta Jacobson, Assistant Secretary of State for the Western Hemisphere, said that review of Cuba’s inclusion on the terrorism list is “advanced” but cleared up “that there’s no conclusions and we can’t prejudge its results.”
Jacobson summarizes the state of the negotiations. “I know it appears as if we haven’t achieved anything but after 50 years of distrust, we’ve made a lot of progress,” she said. “Publicly, much movement won’t be seen until we open an embassy.”
Jacobson said among the reasons slowing negotiations to reopen the U.S. embassy in Havana is the level of access for Cuban and American citizens.
“An embassy is an embassy,” she said. “I can’t say it’s going to be the same as the one we have in London but it’s going to be as close to the ones we have in Russia and China as possible.”
The diplomat said that the declaration of Venezuela as a national security threat to the United States “created some background noise, but hasn’t had a major impact on negotiations in Cuba.” She also mentioned that conversations about human rights “will probably be the hardest” and stated some topics of disagreement:
“There’s still many short-term, arbitrary detentions taking place. Cuba is in the process of an electoral reform but we don’t see any indication that they will allow a multi-partisan democracy to occur,” Jacobson said. “People can’t exercise freedom of expression or association. Cuba thinks that it’s meddling on our part but we believe those are international obligations.”
Meanwhile, Cuba “criticized several U.S. affairs. Our response hasn’t been defensive, we are the first ones to recognize our errors and know that Americans should be the first to criticize them; that’s why our system is so good,” she added.
Maria Contreras-Sweet, head of the government’s Small Business Administration, called on the entrepreneurial community to “take this opportunity to be a force of change, a positive force” for the development of a “free Cuba.”
“Don’t wait for embassies to open or for the government to organize official business delegations,” she said. “We want the business community to lead this process.”
Follow Nora Gamez on Twitter @ngameztorres