Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush railed against the Obama administration’s removal of Cuba from the list of state sponsors of terrorism – continuing his hardline stance against the continuing normalization of relations between Washington and Havana.
"Neither continued repression at home nor Cuba’s destabilizing activities abroad appear sufficient to stop President Obama from making further concessions to the Communist regime in Havana," Bush, who is considering a run for president, said in a statement, according to the New York Times.
Bush added the decision was a mistake and called it "further evidence that President Obama seems more interested in capitulating to our adversaries than in confronting them."
Other top U.S. Republicans criticized the move, with House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio saying the Obama administration had "handed the Castro regime a significant political win in return for nothing."
"The communist dictatorship has offered no assurances it will address its long record of repression and human rights at home," Boehner said in a statement.
The Obama administration’s Democratic allies, however, praised the move with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat, calling it is a "critical step forward in creating new opportunities for American businesses and entrepreneurs, and in strengthening family ties."
Secretary of State John Kerry signed off on rescinding Cuba's "state sponsor of terrorism" designation exactly 45 days after the Obama administration informed Congress of its intent to do so on April 14. Lawmakers had that amount of time to weigh in and try to block the move, but did not do so.
"The 45-day congressional pre-notification period has expired, and the secretary of state has made the final decision to rescind Cuba's designation as a state sponsor of terrorism, effective today, May 29, 2015," the State Department said in a statement.
"While the United States has significant concerns and disagreements with a wide range of Cuba's policies and actions, these fall outside the criteria relevant to the rescission of a state sponsor of terrorism designation," the statement said.
The step comes as officials from the two countries continue to hash out details for restoring full diplomatic relations, including opening embassies in Washington and Havana and returning ambassadors to the two countries for the first time since the U.S. severed diplomatic relations with the island in January 1961. The removal of Cuba from the terrorism list had been a key Cuban demand.
The Cold War-era designation was levied mainly for Cuba's support of leftist guerrillas around the world and isolated the communist island from much of the world financial system because banks fear repercussions from doing business with designated countries. Even Cuba's Interests Section in Washington lost its bank in the United States, forcing it to deal in cash until it found a new banker this month.
Banks continue to take a cautious tone about doing business with Cuba since U.S. laws still make the island off limits for U.S. businesses. Leaders of the Republicans-controlled House have shown zero interest in repealing the laws from the 1990s that codified the U.S. embargo on trade with Cuba.
"Taking Cuba off the terrorism list is one step toward normalization, but for doing business down there, we have a long way to go," said Rob Rowe, vice president and associate chief council at the American Bankers Association.
In a blog post, the White House called the decision on the terrorism list another step toward improving relations with Cuba.
"For 55 years, we tried using isolation to bring about change in Cuba," it said. "But by isolating Cuba from the United States, we isolated the United States from the Cuban people and, increasingly, the rest of the world."
The terrorism list was a particularly charged issue for Cuba because of the U.S. history of supporting exile groups responsible for attacks on the island, including the 1976 bombing of a Cuban passenger flight from Barbados that killed 73 people aboard. The attack was linked to Cuban exiles with ties to U.S.-backed anti-Castro groups and both men accused of masterminding the crime took shelter in Florida, where one, Luis Posada Carriles, currently lives.
"I think this could be a positive act that adds to hope and understanding and can help the negotiations between Cuba and the United States," said director Juan Carlos Cremata, who lost his father in the 1976 bombing.
"It's a list we never should have been on," said Ileana Alfonso, who also lost her father in the attack.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.