For more than three decades, Cuba has joined such nefarious characters as Iran, Sudan and Syria on the U.S. State Department's list of countries that support terrorism abroad. Even as Havana has become a well-traveled international tourism hub sharing little in common with Tehran or Damascus, the designation has remained, leaving Cuba in a particularly strict trade ban.
That could well change this week. With Obama set to meet Raul Castro tomorrow, the State Department has officially recommended Cuba be removed from the list. Obama has already said he'd act quickly on the designation after getting the State Department's OK.
The recommendation comes after a thorough State Department review, which determined Cuba hadn't aided any listed terrorist organizations in the past six months.
"As soon as I get a recommendation, I'll be in a position to act on it," Obama told NPR earlier this week. While he didn't pledge outright to left the terror label, he told NPR "I'm going to be taking a very close look at what the State Department recommends."
The move would amount to a massive olive branch for Obama as he heads to the Summit of the America's tomorrow, where he's expected to have the first lengthy meeting between a sitting U.S. president and a Cuban head of state in decades.
Of course, Congress could still throw a wrench in the process; a joint resolution to keep Cuba on the terror-supporting list could nullify the president's move.
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But it's becoming increasingly clear that — outside the hard-line, old Cuban-American bloc in South Florida, at least — public opinion has shifted toward Obama's approach on Cuba.
The latest evidence comes in a national poll released yesterday by MSNBC, Telemundo and Marist College that found a clear majority — 59 percent of all American voters surveyed — back Obama's move to restore diplomatic ties with the island. The support is still strong among Latino voters, with 56 percent behind the deal.
There's always been a profound irony to the U.S. keeping Cuba on the state sponsors of terrorism list when accused Cuban-American terrorists who've targeted Havana — notably Luis Posada Carriles and Orlando Bosch, who has been linked to a bomb that brought down a Cuban passenger jet and killed 73 civilians — were allowed to live in relative freedom in Miami for years.
Obama could announce his move on Cuba's terrorism label as early as today, NBC reports. We'll update this post if he makes a move.