WASHINGTON, March 24, 2023 (BSS/AFP) - US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Thursday there were no plans to remove Cuba from a list of state sponsors of terrorism, a move made by his predecessor days before leaving.
"We are not planning to remove them from the list," Blinken said at the House Foreign Affairs Committee after a question from a lawmaker of the rival Republican Party.
"If there is to be such a review, it will be based on the law and based on the criteria in the law established by Congress," Blinken said. "It's a very high bar."
Blinken's Republican predecessor Mike Pompeo in January 2021 abruptly returned Cuba to the state sponsor of terrorism list, which severely hampers foreign investment as companies risk legal consequences in the United States.
The move capped efforts by then president Donald Trump to reverse a normalization bid with the communist island and longtime adversary launched by his predecessor Barack Obama.
Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez said Blinken's remarks were no surprise.
"Secretary Blinken confirms the obvious: the current US administration never intended to rescind Trump's unjust designation of #Cuba as a State sponsor of terrorism, because this was not convenient to its criminal economic suffocation policy," Rodriguez tweeted.
President Joe Biden, who was Obama's vice president, has mostly kept in place Trump's policies on Cuba and took further action after a crackdown on rare protests.
Some pundits have attributed his stance to concerns about the Republicans' inroads among Hispanic voters, especially in the key electoral state of Florida.
Iran, North Korea and Syria are the only other countries on the terror list.
In making his decision, Pompeo did not link Cuba to any recent terrorist actions but pointed to Havana's refusal to extradite leaders of Colombia's National Liberation Army (ELN) to the then right-wing government in Bogota.
Colombia, now led by its first leftist president, Gustavo Petro, has resumed talks with the ELN and agreed to recognize the group as a political organization.