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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.

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.

The State Department’s terrorism list, which includes North Korea, Iran, and Syria, has never accurately reflected the international terrorism landscape, says Max Abrahms, an associate professor of political science and an expert in international security. He argues that countries such as Saudi Arabia and Qatar should be added to the list before Cuba.


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