HAVANA TIMES — Republicans in Congress will not try to block the decision of US President Barack Obama to remove Cuba from the list of state sponsors of terrorism, believing they have no legal grounds to do so, reported dpa.
Florida Republican Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a fervent opponent of the Castro government, had planned to introduce a bill this week in the House of Representatives seeking to block the exit of Cuba from the “black list” compiled by the State Department.
“We cannot change it,” Ros-Lehtinen acknowledged in an interview with the conservative magazine “Foreign Policy”. “The experts told us that under parliamentary rules it simply cannot be done,” added Republican Congresswoman of Cuban origin.
Ros-Lehtinen told the magazine that confusion over the authority of Congress to block Obama’s decision to remove Cuba from the list comes from a misunderstanding with the Helms-Burton Act, which in 1996 tightened the economic and trade embargo against the island.
Republicans had hoped to impose their majority in Congress to stop Obama’s plans.
In March 1982 the Reagan administration included Cuba on the list of state sponsors of terrorism. As a result of the December agreement between Washington and Havana to resume diplomatic relations, Obama asked the Secretary of State, John Kerry, to review whether Cuba should be removed from the list.
After hearing the recommendation of the Department of State, Obama announced to Congress on his decision to remove Cuba from the list of state sponsors of terrorism. The countries still on the list are Iran, Sudan and Syria.
The measure, which takes effect 45 days after the President’s announcement, was one of the most frequently repeated demands from Havana during the negotiations to restore diplomatic ties.
To justify its decision the White House argued that “the government of Cuba has not provided any support for international terrorism in the last six months” and said it “will not support acts of international terrorism in the future.”
The announcement of the departure of Cuba from the list of countries sponsoring terrorism came just days after Obama held a historic face-to-face meeting with his Cuban counterpart Raul Castro, in the framework of the Summit of the Americas in Panama. It was the first meeting at this level between the two countries in more than 50 years.
Washington and Havana announced last December 17 an agreement to resume diplomatic relations broken off unilaterally by the United States in 1961. Both countries are negotiating since late January the planned reopening of embassies, although there is still no time frame.