President Barack Obama continued to take aim at stumbling blocks in the path to normalizing relations with Cuba on Tuesday by removing the Caribbean country from a list of state sponsors of terrorism.
The White House said on Twitter that the president had submitted to Congress the required reports and certifications that indicate his intent to take Cuba off the list that currently also includes Iran, Sudan and Syria.
In a message to Congress, Obama said the government of Cuba "has not provided any support for international terrorism" over the last six months. He also told lawmakers that Cuba "has provided assurances that it will not support acts of international terrorism in the future."
Cuba will officially be removed from the terror list 45 days after the president's message is sent to Congress. Lawmakers could vote to block the move during that window, though Obama would be certain to veto such a measure.
The terror designation has been a stain on Cuba's pride and a major obstacle to efforts to mend ties between Washington and Havana.
The list of state sponsors of terrorism was created on December 29, 1979 with four Middle Eastern countries - Libya, Iraq, South Yemen and Syria - for “repeatedly provided support for acts of international terrorism.”
Cuba followed less than three years later on March 1, 1982 because of what the White House said was its efforts "to promote armed revolution by organizations that used terrorism."
Iran and North Korea followed in the early 1980s, with Sudan added on August 12, 1993.
Since its creation the list has fluctuated several times.
Iraq was the first removed from the list in the early 1980s to allow U.S. companies to sell arms to the country while the Middle Eastern country was fighting Iran.
However the designation was added in 1990 when it invaded Kuwait.
President George Bush announced the removal of Iraq from the list in September 2004 following the U.S. invasion and overthrow of government of Saddam Hussein a year before.
South Yemen, added to the list for its support of several left-wing terrorist groups, was taken off the list in 1990 after the country merged with Yemen Arab Republic to create what is today known as Yemen.
Libya was removed from the list in 2006 after a 45-day wait period. Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said the government’s decision to remove Libya from the list was due to the country’s “continued commitment to its renunciation of terrorism.”
President Bush also removed North Korea from the list in 2008 after meeting all nuclear inspection requirements. The Asian country was initially added because it sold weapons to known terrorist groups and gave asylum to Japanese Community League-Red Army Faction members.
According to the Secretary of State 2013 countries report, Iran remains a “state of proliferation concern” for not suspending its nuclear activities and violating its “international obligations regarding its nuclear program.”
Sudan, while “generally cooperative counter terrorism” and taking steps to limit the activities of terrorist groups like al-Qa’ida, still remains on the list, the country report said.
Syria has remained on the list since 1979, when it was added for the continued support of the Asad regime toward a variety of terrorist groups including Hizballah, the State Department reported. The regime’s continued support of the group has kept the Middle Eastern country on the list.
“The United States is coordinating closely with a number of like-minded nations and partners to prevent Syria’s stockpiles of chemical and advanced conventional weapons from falling into the hands of violent extremists,” the country report said.
Each removal of a country from the list has elicited criticism from those who have cast doubt on the vows of those nations' leaders that they will not sponsor terrorism, among other things.
Following the White House's announcement, Sen. Marco Rubio denounced Obama's decision, calling it "a terrible one, but not surprising, unfortunately."
"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 said in a statement. "It’s also the country that’s helping North Korea evade weapons sanctions by the United Nations.They should have remained on the list of state sponsors of terrorism, and I think sends a chilling message to our enemies aboard that this White House is no longer serious about calling terrorism by its proper name.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.