As politically unpalatable as it may seem, the Obama administration’s decision to remove Cuba from the list of state sponsors of terrorism is an inevitable bow to reality. Cuba remains a repressive, one-party police state, but it no longer exports subversion throughout the hemisphere as it did when the Reagan administration placed it on the list in 1982. At the time, Cuba was actively engaged in supporting the FARC guerrilla movement in Colombia, among other terrorist groups. That’s what got it onto the list in the first place.
Today, as the State Department’s own Web site acknowledges, Cuba is brokering a peace agreement between the leftist group and the Colombian government. It is no longer the hemisphere’s beacon of revolution, in large part because the Cuban model long ago lost its allure for all but the most naive believers in Marxism.
Crossing Cuba off the list should not be deemed a reward but an acknowledgment of the change in behavior. Indeed, changed behavior was cited by the Bush administration in 2006 when it took Libya off the list after it ended a program to develop weapons of mass destruction.
The administration’s critics are dismayed to see it giving away every bargaining chip and getting nothing in return, but it was proving to be a hindrance more than a help in the process of normalization.
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Removing Cuba from the list lifts some financial sanctions on the island and thus gives U.S. banks confidence that they aren’t violating U.S. law if they facilitate monetary transactions for their customers. It also helps bring Cuba back into the international financial system, which could help empower the private sector by increasing investment on the island and loans to small businesses.
Congress now has 45 days to act if it wants to reject the removal, but that would obviously meet with President Obama’s veto, even if it could win approval in the Senate, turning it into another unproductive political melodrama. Better to just skip it.