WASHINGTON – The Obama administration should remove Cuba from the U.S. State Department list of State Sponsors of Terrorism and offer support for Havana’s economic liberalization program, the Center for Democracy in the Americas says in a report released Tuesday.
“The president can remove Cuba unilaterally from the terror list. He should do so,” the Washington-based CDA said in a document based on interviews with Cuban officials, experts and ordinary citizens.
Cuba’s inclusion on the terrorism list “is both substantively wrong and harmful to the Cuban economy, because it punishes Cuba for legal trade and financial transactions and deprives its people access to modern technology,” the CDA said.
While acknowledging that ending the U.S. economic embargo against the Communist-ruled island would require the agreement of Congress, the report points to “additional executive decisions the president can take to ease the flow of financing to Cuba and to spur demand for the activities the emerging private sector is performing.”
The same is true for Washington’s restrictions on travel to Cuba, the CDA said.
“President Obama could use his executive authority to open and expand categories of opportunities for Americans to visit Cuba,” according to report author Collin Laverty.
Obama has already taken some steps in that direction, notably by rolling back the more restrictive rules imposed by the Bush administration that made it harder for Cuban-Americans to visit relatives on the island.
The CDA report also recommends scrapping the current Cuba program of the U.S. Agency for International Development.
AID’s present policy “wastes millions of dollars each year to bring about the type of economic and political transition it sees fit for Cuba, but the effect of the program increases suspicion and tension between the two governments,” the CDA says.
The report notes that a “failure” of the program in 2009 led to the arrest in Cuba of AID sub-contractor Alan Gross, who remains behind bars in Havana.
Obama’s earlier moves to facilitate Cuban-Americans’ travel and remittances to the island create an opportunity for diaspora Cubans to contribute to the reform process, the CDS says, especially now that President Raul Castro has ended a 50-year ban on buying and selling homes.
Though Cubans living abroad cannot buy property on the island, they can finance purchases by relatives still living there.
The CDS recognizes that Havana’s reforms, which also include broadening the scope for private business and plans to lay off 500,000 state employees, will likely not be sufficient for Cuba to overcome its serious economic woes.
“Cuba’s nearly intractable problems stem from the limited ways in which its economy produces wealth, its heavy reliance on imports to feed its population, growing domestic economic inequality, and the lack of opportunities for citizens to productively use knowledge acquired through advanced education,” the report states.
Even so, the CDA insists that Obama and the U.S. political class must acknowledge the changes in Cuba are real.
“(T)he greatest contribution our country can make is to demonstrate that we want the reforms to succeed in order to improve the lives and living standards of the Cuban people,” the report says. EFE