Tags: Barack Obama | Castro-Cuba | Exclusive Interviews | MidPoint | Cuba | list | state sponsors of terrorism

Expert: Cuba's Removal From US Terror List Strictly 'Symbolic'

By    |   Monday, 13 Apr 2015 08:36 PM

If the Obama administration takes communist Cuba off a list of state sponsors of terrorism, the regime next door can claim a symbolic victory, at most, because much harsher economic sanctions remain in place under a 54-year U.S. embargo, says an expert on U.S.-Cuba relations.

Removal from the blacklist, as urged by the State Department, would also reflect the reality that Cuba hasn't exported armed revolution since the 1990s, William LeoGrande, professor of government at American University, told "MidPoint" host Ed Berliner on Newsmax TV Monday.

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"When the Soviet Union disappeared, Cuba really lost the capacity to project military force off of the island," said LeoGrande, author of "Back Channel to Cuba: The Hidden History of Negotiations Between Washington and Havana."

"What they've done instead to bolster their own diplomatic standing is to send [abroad] medical workers — doctors, nurses, medical technicians, and so on," said LeoGrande, describing what he called "a kind of shift from hard power to soft power, if you will."

Even with Friday's historic handshake in Panama between President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro, part of an attempt to end decades of mutual hostility, U.S. policy cannot change overnight, he said.

"There are financial sanctions that attach to countries that are on the terrorism list, but the reality is that those sanctions are not as stringent as the economic sanctions under the U.S. embargo against Cuba," he said.

And because the embargo rests on a series of laws that would have to be undone by Congress and the White House, "Even if Cuba came off the terrorism list tomorrow and the terrorism list sanctions went away, the embargo sanctions are still in place," said LeoGrande.

The upside for Cuba would be "symbolic," he said, because the government in Havana has objected to being labeled a state sponsor of terrorism since it landed on the list in 1982 when Raul's brother, revolutionary leader Fidel, was in charge.

"They haven't felt like they've ever supported terrorism, and certainly not now," he said. "It's been for them a real point of pride to get off that list."

LeoGrande — whose 2014 book revealed decades worth of quiet contacts between Washington and Havana coinciding with the embargo — said he supports Obama's move to re-establish diplomatic relations and allow some economic activity and travel between the countries.

"And for the critics who say that this policy won't work, the answer is the policy of hostility and trying to coerce Cuba into behaving — we tried that for 54 years and it didn't work," he said. "It didn't make the human rights situation any better and it didn't really serve the interest of the United States.

"This is a new approach, an approach of engagement," he said. "It's not very different really than what we and our western European allies did with Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union during the 1970s and 1980s. We ought to give it a chance to see and see if it doesn't show some success."

LeoGrande acknowledged that a successor to Obama — a critic of his Cuba policy, for example, such as Sen. Marco Rubio, the Florida Republican and son of Cuban immigrants who is running for president — could reverse everything.

"All the things the president has done thus far, he's done on his executive authority as president, and a new president could roll all that back," he said.

"It would be difficult, though," he said. "The position that President Obama has taken has been so popular among our Latin American allies and our European allies that to reverse it would do a lot of diplomatic damage to our relations, not just in the hemisphere, but really globally."

He said the move is also increasingly popular here.

"There's no doubt about it," he said. "We've got polling data that goes back a number of years that shows that younger Cuban Americans, Cuban Americans born here or Cuban Americas who came from Cuba more recently, want to stay in touch with their family on the island.

"They want to travel back and forth and they want to send remittances. And so for them, a normal state-to-state relationship is a good thing, not a bad thing."

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If the Obama administration takes communist Cuba off a list of state sponsors of terrorism, the regime next door can claim a symbolic victory, at most, because much harsher economic sanctions remain in place under a U.S. embargo, says an expert on U.S.-Cuba relations.
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2015-36-13
Monday, 13 Apr 2015 08:36 PM
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