On January 21, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Roberta Jacobson will be the first diplomat since the Carter administration to set foot on Cuban soil with the goal of restoring diplomatic relations that haven’t existed since the height of the Cold War.

From Bloomberg:

Jacobson’s arrival will kickstart negotiations that could eventually expand to include everything from demands for compensation by Cuban-American exiles and U.S. companies to improved human rights. While the U.S. and Cuba have met for years to discuss lower-level issues such as counter-narcotics and migration, her visit is the first to test Obama and Castro’s pledges to bolster relations.

The U.S. will review Cuba’s designation as a state sponsor of terror and make a decision within six months of the Dec. 17 announcement that relations would be normalized, an administration official said in advance of the trip, speaking on the condition of not being identified because of diplomatic protocol. The State Department will review evidence and intelligence to determine if Cuba is sponsoring terrorism, though the determination won’t impede normalization, regardless of the outcome, the official said.

Although formal ties were severed in 1961, the U.S. maintained its old embassy as a way of maintaining communications with the Castro regime. President Obama has plans to reopen the embassy, but will have to secure funding from Congress to do so.

Cuba’s status as a state sponsor of terrorism tops the list of concerns for American lawmakers who oppose the normalization plan. State Department officials have said that determinations regarding Cuba’s terror listing “will have no impact” on the administration’s efforts to reestablish diplomatic relations, and that the two issues “are proceeding on separate tracks.”

In a recent interview with Katie Couric, Senator Marco Rubio laid out his concerns about Cuba’s status as a security threat, and a state sponsor of terror:

Lawmakers like Rubio may be ready to fight normalization, but the American people as a whole are not. According to a recent survey by Pew, over 60% of Americans support both closer relations with Cuba, and ending the embargo.


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