The U.S. State Department recommended the removal of Cuba from the list of state sponsors of international terrorism on Tuesday, only days after a historic face-to-face meeting between U.S. President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raúl Castro at the Summit of the Americas in Panamá over the weekend.
In December, Obama asked the State Department to begin a study on whether Cuba continued to merit the designation, originally set in 1982.
“While the United States has had, and continues to have, significant concerns and disagreements with a wide range of Cuba’s policies and actions, these concerns and disagreements fall outside of the criteria for designation as a State Sponsor of Terrorism,” the statement from U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said.
On Saturday, Obama and Castro shook hands briefly at a meeting of U.S., Caribbean and Latin American countries run by the Organization of American States in Panama City. This first public meeting between the heads of government of the two countries in decades set off a wave of optimistic reactions in the region.
Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff praised the two at the Summit on Saturday.
“We celebrate the brave initiative of presidents Obama and Castro to put an end to this last vestige of the Cold War which has caused so much harm,” Rousseff said. “We are certain that other steps will be taken, such as the end to the embargo.”
Mexico’s President Enrique Peña Nieto joined Rousseff in praising the reconciliation.
“Mexico celebrates the decision of the Cuban and U.S. governments to undertake negotiations to reestablish their diplomatic relations,” Nieto said, according to a report by El Financiero. “This decision is consistent with the historic position of Mexico, to look for peaceful solutions to controversies and to promote dialogue in the hemisphere.”
In the wake of the Summit of the Americas, Panamá’s leading newspaper, La Prensa, ran an editorial on Tuesday, titled “Obama wins a reconciliation with Latin America.”
“The region, after the Summit of the Americas this past weekend, sets to establish what had begun as a new era in the relations between the northern neighbor and the south.With many imperfections and still great mistrust, but different. And everyone understands – some more than others – that the reason for this great change taken after many decades has a name: Barack Obama.”
The article, published before the State Department’s announcement, called for actions after the public détente witnessed at the summit, including the removal of Cuba from the list of state sponsors of terrorism.
Obama originally called on U.S. Congress to end the trade embargo during his State of the Union address in January.
“When what you’re doing doesn’t work for 50 years, it’s time to try something new,” Obama said in the speech (video). “And our shift in Cuba policy has the potential to end a legacy of mistrust in our hemisphere and removes a phony excuse for restrictions in Cuba.”