Cuba’s removal from terror list could ease trade and travel
By William E. Gibson
WASHINGTON — Florida banks, traders and travelers will benefit from
Cuba’s removal on Friday from the U.S. list of “state sponsors of
terrorism,” analysts said this week.
Businesses that sell food, building materials and other products to the
island may find it easier to finance their transactions. Visitors
eventually will be able to use credit cards through American banks to
buy cigars, rum, artworks and other goods.
And banks, which have been reluctant to establish ties to Cuba partly
because of its terror listing, will be encouraged to serve travelers and
customers who do business on the island.
“Having the ability to use a credit card down there that’s issued by a
U.S. bank is going to be huge,” said Milton Vescovacci, a Miami attorney
who helps U.S. companies navigate the rules of engagement with Cuba.
“Now that Cuba is no longer on the terrorist list, that’s one less thing
to worry about,” Vescovacci said. “It will encourage banks that are
interested in establishing corresponding relationships, which they can
do already under the rules.”
President Barack Obama notified Congress in April that he would remove
Cuba from the list after the State Department determined that the Castro
regime was no longer fomenting revolution or fostering terrorism in
other nations. The de-listing officially took effect on Friday.
Sen. Marco Rubio and other Florida members of Congress lashed out at
Obama’s decision but faced a daunting task to block it.
“Cuba is a state sponsor of terrorism,” Rubio said. “They harbor
fugitives of American justice, including someone who killed a police
officer in New Jersey over 30 years ago. It’s also the country that’s
helping North Korea evade weapons sanctions by the United Nations.”
Cuban officials have indicated they may be willing to return some
fugitives wanted for crimes committed in the United States.
A year-long investigation by the Sun Sentinel found that Cuban criminal
networks were taking advantage of generous immigration laws to travel
between Florida and Cuba while funneling ill-gotten gains from Medicare
fraud and other crimes to the island. Many of the fraudsters remain
holed up in Cuba, eluding U.S. authorities.
During a trip to Cuba on Wednesday, U.S. Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., said he
raised the fugitive issue with Cuban officials. “I assume with the
normalization of relations, we are going to have a lot more discussions
about things like that,” Udall told reporters in Havana.
De-listing Cuba is considered crucial to establishing normal diplomatic
relations after a half-century of alienation and isolation. Once Obama
notified Congress of his decision, the House and Senate had 45 days to
consider passing a joint resolution to oppose it.
But House opponents led by U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Miami, said
they were advised that a joint resolution might not have legal standing
to block the move. She had rounded up 35 co-sponsors but may have lacked
enough votes to pass one anyway.
Opponents looked for other ways to undermine Obama’s policy, mostly by
preserving the U.S. embargo, which still forbids American pleasure trips
to Cuba and restricts most forms of trade.
The list — now only Iran, Sudan, and Syria — is mostly a symbolic slap,
a way to discourage companies and other countries from trading with
stigmatized nations. Removing Cuba from the list does not unleash sudden
dramatic changes but paves the way for closer relations, which in turn
will lead to more travel and commerce.
Stonegate Bank of Pompano Beach announced last week that it had already
taken the plunge by agreeing to provide services to the Cuban Interests
Section, an unofficial Cuban embassy in Washington.
“We hope this is the initial step to normalize banking ties between the
two countries, which will benefit American companies wanting to do
business in Cuba, as well as the Cuban people,” David Seleski,
Stonegate’s chief executive, said last week.
List of ‘State Sponsors of Terrorism’
Syria………Dec. 29, 1979
Cuba………March 1, 1982….Removed May 29, 2015
Iran………..Jan. 19, 1984
Sudan…….Aug. 12, 1993
SOURCE: State Department
Source: Cuba’s removal from terror list will ease trade and travel – Sun