The warming of relations between Cuba and the United States is taking shape. Barack Obama wishes to remove Cuba from the black list of state sponsors of terrorism. This could lead to the reopening of embassies in the two countries.

On Tuesday, U.S. President Barack Obama accepted removing Cuba from America’s black list of state sponsors of terrorism, a decision deemed “just” by Havana and one that marked a key step toward normalizing relations between the two countries.

This initiative, which arouses hope on the island, comes up three days after a historic one-on-one meeting with his Cuban counterpart, Raul Castro, in Panama — the first since the two countries broke off their diplomatic relations in 1961, the year Obama was born. “The Cuban government recognizes the president of the United States’ just decision to take Cuba off a list on which it should never have been included,” the Cuban diplomat for U.S. affairs said in a statement.

45 Days To Block the Removal

The island had proposed this removal as a prerequisite to the re-establishment of diplomatic relations with Washington, which was the subject of two sessions of negotiations, in January in Havana and in February in Washington, after the historic announcement in December of their reconciliation. The goal is to reopen embassies in both capitols. The two countries have maintained interest sections that also serve as chancelleries since 1977.

In a report presented to Congress, the American president announced his “intention to erase” Cuba from the list, with the White House having announced it earlier. He asserted that “the government of Cuba has not provided any support for international terrorism during the preceding six-month period.” The representatives now have 45 days to express their opposition. If they block this removal, Barack Obama can exercise his right to veto.

The removal of Cuba from this list, which it has been on since 1982, was recommended by the U.S. State Department. At first, Washington did not wish to include this topic in negotiations, but the State Department had initiated steps toward removing this obstacle. Other departments and American intelligence agencies have also spoken in favor of the removal, the American administration pointed out.

“A very courageous gesture”

This piece of news, broadcast to the island by Internet and the Venezuelan television station Telesur, has already sparked hope. “This decision by Obama allows us Cubans to determine the seriousness of the steps being taken, and this clearly gives us hope,” Natalia Diaz, a 53-year-old independent contractor in Havana, said to the AFP.

Retired actress Glice Fariñas, 68, reacted similarly. For her, “it’s a very courageous gesture from Obama, even if Cuba should never have been part of that list,” adding that she was also waiting for “Obama to lift the embargo, which has also been very harmful to us.” “Circumstances have changed since 1982,” stressed Secretary of State John Kerry. “Our hemisphere, and the world, look very different today than they did 33 years ago.”

Dick Durbin, who holds the second-highest position among Senate Democrats, supported Mr. Obama’s initiative. “While no fan of the Castro regime, I continue to believe that opening up the island to American ideas, vibrancy and trade is the most effective way to see a more open and tolerant Cuba,” he stated.

Among Republicans, who are hostile to this reunification, senator and presidential candidate Marco Rubio classified this decision as being “terrible.” “Cuba is a state sponsor of terrorism. They harbor fugitives of American justice, including someone who killed a police officer in New Jersey over 30 years ago,” he objected.