WASHINGTON – The Obama administration is poised to remove Cuba from its official list of terrorism sponsors, according to White House officials and media reports.The expected move could occur in time for this week’s Summit of the Americas in Panama, which President Obama will attend.
The announcement has been anticipated since last year, when the administration revealed its plans to end a trade and travel embargo on Cuba.
Cuba has demanded removal of the designation in talks with U.S. officials, calling it an obstacle to reestablishing diplomatic relations.
Deputy National Security adviser Benjamin Rhodes told reporters Tuesday the State Department’s review of Cuba’s place on its State Sponsors of Terrorism list is in “its final stages.” He did not rule out Obama announcing the change at the two-day summit he is set to attend this week with Latin American leaders in Panama City.
CNN reported Tuesday that the State Department is expected to recommend that Cuba be removed from the government’s list. Citing an unnamed administration official, CNN said the announcement could come as soon as Wednesday.
Obama is expected to quickly approve the department’s recommendation.
In an interview with NPR aired Tuesday, Obama said his decision will turn not on whether Cuba engages in “repressive or authoritarian activities in their own country” but on the “current activities of the Cuban government” with regard to terrorism.”
“There’s a real opportunity here, and we are going to continue to make – move forward on it,” Obama said. “Our hope is to be in a position where we can open an embassy there, that we can start having more regular contacts and consultations around a whole host of issues.”
Cuba was added to the list of terrorism sponsors in 1982, when it was aiding Marxist insurgencies.
Meanwhile, the NBA announced Tuesday that it will hold a four-day development camp and host clinics for youth in Cuba from April 23-25.
The clinic will make the NBA the first U.S. professional sports league to visit Cuba since Obama announced plans to restore relations.
Retired two-time MVP Steve Nash, Hall of Fame center Dikembe Mutombo and former WNBA player Ticha Penicheiro will take part, along with NBA coaches Quin Snyder of Utah and James Borrego of Orlando, the Associated Press reported.
Dan Friedman, New York Daily News
April 7, 2015
With News Wire Services