The Trump administration’s decision to label Cuba a terrorist nation will complicate President Joe Biden’s ambitions to re-establish ties with Havana, Northeastern professors say. But they add that, even if commercial activity with the Communist country remains halted, Biden has some options for resetting Cuban-American relations.
Nine days before former President Donald Trump left office, his secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, announced he was returning Cuba to the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism, citing its hosting of 10 Colombian rebel leaders, along with a handful of American fugitives wanted for crimes committed in the 1970s.
The parting maneuver was one of a series of actions against Cuba that included tightening restrictions on U.S. travel and remittances and imposing sanctions on shipments of Venezuelan oil to the island.
The terrorist designation effectively handcuffed whatever plans Biden had to normalize relations with Havana and will take a long time to unwind, says José Buscaglia, professor of cultures, societies, and global studies at Northeastern.
Reversing the designation is a formal process requiring Congressional approval, Buscaglia says, and Biden would have to show lawmakers that Cuba hasn’t provided support for terrorist acts in the preceding six months, nor will it in the future.