Tag Archives: US-Cuba Normalization

CUBAN AMERICAN BUSINESS LEADERS CALL ON BIDEN ADMINISTRATION AND CUBAN GOVERNMENT TO MAKE ENGAGEMENT RESILIENT TO POLITICAL CYCLES

February 16, 2021
Contact: Ricardo Herrero
 C
In a newly published policy paper, the Cuba Study Group cites engagement as the best way to advance U.S. national interests, reassert regional leadership, and promote freer, more prosperous future for Cuban people


*Download the policy paper in English and Spanish versions.* 


Washington/Miami – The Cuba Study Group, a non-partisan organization comprised of Cuban-American business leaders and young professionals, published a policy paper on Tuesday calling renewed diplomatic engagement with Cuba vital to advancing U.S. national interests and to promoting a freer, more prosperous future for the Cuban people. The policy paper, delivered Tuesday morning to the White House, is the first comprehensive policy vision delivered to the Biden Administration by a prominent Cuban American organization, and challenges both the United States and Cuban governments to “strive to make the normalization of relations resilient in order to insulate progress from unpredictable political cycles.” 

The policy recommendations come just two weeks after the White House asserted that its efforts on Cuba policy will be grounded in support for democracy and human rights, and that Cuban-Americans are the best ambassadors for freedom in Cuba. The white paper, titled U.S.-Cuba Relations in the Biden Era: A Case for Making Engagement Resilient as a Means of Providing Long-Term Support for the Cuban People, which can be downloaded in English and Spanish versions on our website at www.cubastudygroup.org, calls for a new approach at engagement that puts long-term support for the Cuban people, and their well-being, at the center of U.S.-Cuba relations

“As the new Administration undertakes a review of standing Cuba policies, it’s important to communicate that simply reversing Trump era actions that unduly harmed the Cuban people during the last four years won’t be enough,” said Carlos Saladrigas, Chairman of the Cuba Study Group. “We believe the Cuban people at home and abroad hold the keys to more resilient relations between the United States and Cuba, and should be seen as partners in this effort. That means both governments must take proactive steps to strengthen ties between their nations’ civil societies and private sectors over the next four years. Only through deep and transparent socio-economic bonds will we be able to protect progress toward normalization against cyclical political winds.”

The policy paper reaffirms that the United States should continue to highlight Cuba’s democratic failings and continue to support actors across the Cuban spectrum working to ensure that greater economic and civic freedoms are guaranteed on the island. It cautions, however, that “strident denunciations of the failures of communism and absolutist conditions for sanctions relief are feeble substitutes for robust diplomacy” like the kind needed to empower the Cuban people to shape their own destinies.

The policy paper delineates three specific tracks:

  1. Restoring Support for the Cuban People as a Policy Priority and Rebuilding Trust
  2. Tackling the “Tough Stuff” and Making Normalization Stick Through High-Level, Direct Diplomacy
  3. Responding to Openness with Openness 

The first track lays out detailed policy recommendations for rolling back harmful Trump-era policies, as well as steps for restoring support for the Cuban private sector, resuming public health cooperation, restarting fundamental diplomatic functions, rebuilding trust, and better engaging Cuban-Americans as partners. The second recommends the designation of a special representative to tackle long unresolved disputes and to move forward on the negotiation of cooperation agreements. The track third argues for further openness to steps taken by the Cuban government, which has begun important reforms such as ending its dual currency and its recent expansion of the private sector. However, the Cuban government will need to recognize greater rights for its citizens to help cement progress and increase congressional support for further action on counterproductive Cuba sanctions or other targeted assistance. 

“While the Cuban government was slow to respond to many of the opportunities provided by renewed diplomatic relations in 2014, the Cuban people themselves made significant progress expanding the island’s nascent private sector and civil society,” added Ricardo Herrero, CSG Executive Director. “Cuban-Americans are ready to be constructive partners, and have long contributed to the future of the island. The Biden Administration has a window of opportunity to act, and to do so boldly, but Cuba must also do its part. Failure to lock in significant progress during the next four years could entrench another generation on both sides of the Florida Straits into the patterns of hostility and suspicion that have defined most of the past seven decades.”

“Cuban-Americans are clamoring for a legal framework that makes it possible to openly work with and invest alongside Cuban entrepreneurs, not only to help them succeed individually but also to bolster the island’s nascent private sector and improve the island’s economy,” added Karina Duquesne, a Cuba Study Group Young Professional Member and corporate attorney. “Now that Cuba has opened up much of its economy to private enterprise, enabling Cuban entrepreneurs to open bank accounts in the United States and authorizing American companies to provide business-to-business services to those entrepreneurs would help build a community of stakeholders vital to sustaining this new era of engagement.”

Posted in Blog | Tagged | Leave a comment

BIDEN SHOULD ACT FAST ON CUBA

By William M. LeoGrande

Special to the Sun Sentinel |

Jan 28, 2021 at 10:09 AM

Original Article: Biden Should Act Fast on Cuba

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s last-minute ploys to poison the well of foreign relations with China, Iran and Cuba will force President Joe Biden to make repairing foreign policy a priority. China and Iran are intrinsically more important than Cuba, which poses no real threat to the United States. Nevertheless, there are good reasons for the president to move quickly to re-engage with Cuba as he promised during the campaign.

Cuba is a high-profile foreign policy issue because it played such an out-sized role as a focal point of Cold War tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union. President Obama’s 2014 opening attracted global attention and praise as a historic achievement akin to President Richard Nixon’s opening to China. Quick action to re-engage with Cuba will send the message that Biden intends to have an active foreign policy, re-engaging with both allies and adversaries and rebuilding U.S. stature in the world.

Moreover, the humanitarian situation on the island justifies early action. The Trump administration has caused real hardship by blocking travel and the flow of remittances to Cuban families. If the new administration delays in fulfilling Biden’s campaign promise to reverse those sanctions, it will prolong the suffering of Cuban families unnecessarily.

Re-engagement is also the best way to support human rights. Although Cuban leaders have never been willing to make concessions about internal affairs in order to mollify Washington, human rights conditions in Cuba have been linked to U.S.-Cuban relations historically. When relations have improved, the human rights situation has improved as well; when relations have deteriorated, Cuban leaders’ heightened sense of threat has led to crackdowns on dissent. The best way to exert a positive influence on human rights in Cuba is to re-engage with the Cuban government while, at the same time, continuing to express our basic commitment to democracy and human rights.

The crisis in Venezuela poses another humanitarian challenge. The hardship endured by Venezuelans and the migration pressure on neighboring countries demands early attention.

President Trump’s failed policy of regime change has made matters worse, underscoring the reality that the only path back to democracy in Venezuela is through a negotiated political settlement. Given Cuba’s support for Nicolas Maduro’s government, Cuban cooperation will be necessary to achieve a Venezuelan settlement, just as it was necessary for ending the conflict in southern Africa in the 1980s. By re-engaging with Cuba sooner rather than later, the Biden administration can begin to create the conditions for progress in Venezuela.

Practically speaking, the upcoming Ninth Summit of the Americas, scheduled for late 2021 and hosted by the United States, is a decision-forcing event that will compel the new administration to formulate its policy toward Latin America, including Cuba. The summit will also provide an opportunity for President Biden to meet Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel — a meeting that would be more productive if the new administration has already taken steps to repair the damage done to relations by Trump.

Although the United States may not have as much at stake in relations with Cuba as it does elsewhere, the bilateral relationship offer a wide variety of opportunities for cooperation because Cuba is a near-neighbor. During President Obama’s last two years in office, the United States and Cuba signed 22 bilateral agreements on issue of mutual interests ranging from counter-narcotics to environmental protection.



Many contemporary foreign policy issues are transnational and can only be addressed through cooperation with our neighbors. On most of those issues, U.S. and Cuban interests coincide; significant progress can be made if Washington returns to a policy of engagement. For the Biden administration, delaying means delaying opportunities to advance U.S. interests.

Of all the foreign policy challenges that Biden faces, re-engaging with Cuba is among the easiest. The basic principles of re-engagement can be laid out quickly because they were well-defined in then-President Obama’s Oct. 14, 2016 policy directive.

Every sanction Trump imposed on Cuba was imposed unilaterally by executive authority, so they all can reversed the same way. Most could be retracted in a single package simply by returning the regulations that govern the U.S. embargo to their status on Jan. 20, 2017. A few of Trump’s actions will take longer to repair — removing Cuba from the list of state sponsors of terrorism and re-staffing the U.S. embassy in Havana. But much can be done in the meantime.

Since Biden’s election, Cuban leaders have expressed their interest in a better relationship based on cooperation and mutual respect. Washington should not wait for Havana to take the initiative. Trump broke off engagement with Cuba, so Biden should take the first steps to restore it — the sooner the better.

William M. LeoGrande is Professor of Government at American University in Washington, DC, and co-author with Peter Kornbluh of Back Channel to Cuba: The Hidden History of Negotiations between Washington and Havana.

Posted in Blog | Tagged , | Leave a comment

UNITED STATES AGRICULTURE COALITION FOR CUBA ENCOURAGES BIDEN ADMINISTRATION TO IMPROVE U.S. / CUBA AGRICULTURE RELATIONS

For Immediate Release January 14, 2021

Contact: Paul Johnson Phone: 773-814-2493; Email: usagcoalitionforcuba@gmail.com

Original Letter: USACC

United States Agriculture Coalition for Cuba Encourages Biden Administration to Improve U.S. / Cuba Agriculture Relations

The United States Agriculture Coalition for Cuba (USACC) today wrote to President-Elect Biden to urge a return to policies of engagement toward Cuba, for the sake of the U.S. national interest, to boost U.S. food exports to Cuba, and to support the development of beneficial relations between our countries’ agricultural sectors.

The text of the letter follows:

Dear Mr. President-Elect: The undersigned members of the U.S. Agriculture Coalition for Cuba congratulate you on your election victory and wish you every success in office.

We would like to offer our views on U.S. relations with our neighbors in Cuba.

We share your view that six decades of economic sanctions against Cuba have been ineffectual. Our sanctions hurt the Cuban people, limit American influence in Cuba, and antagonize friends and allies, while doing nothing to advance any U.S. interest.

A turn to policies of engagement will serve our national interest and benefit U.S. agriculture, which has long practiced many forms of engagement on a global scale. Freed of restrictions, we expect that ties between our agricultural sectors will produce important economic and humanitarian benefits and contribute to better relations between our peoples and governments. American strength in agricultural exports has been built over the years on the principle that all markets matter.

Cuba is an opportunity for U.S. farmers and ranchers: it imports $2 billion in food each year, less than ten percent from the United States. U.S. exports of potatoes, wheat, animal feed, dairy, poultry, rice, and other products stand to grow significantly.

U.S. farmers, businesses, private organizations, NGOs, and universities can work with Cuban counterparts on the challenges of increasing productivity, adapting to climate change, and building sound commercial strategies.

With Cuba now allowing its private sector to import and export, and also inviting foreign investment in private farm cooperatives, the opportunities for Americans to assist in the growth of that private sector have expanded

We offer these recommendations.

First, we urge you to resume efforts to normalize relations. We hope you make clear that neither our principles nor our interests are served by harming the Cuban economy and increasing hardship for the eleven million neighbors who live in it. We urge you to inform Congress that your Administration would welcome legislation to end the embargo entirely, should Congress choose to act.

Second, we urge early action to restore the Cuban Asset Control Regulations to those in place January 20, 2017 and to suspend Title III of the Helms-Burton Act of 1996. These regulatory steps are important to U.S. agriculture, to business generally, and to any Americans seeking to make a positive difference. Recent experience shows that U.S. travelers propel growth across Cuba’s private sector, benefiting many thousands of Cuban families.

Third, we urge you to support legislation to put U.S. exporters on an equal footing with our competitors by allowing us to negotiate trade terms including private financial credit.

Fourth, we urge resuming full operation of our Embassy in Havana as health considerations permit. The lack of consular and other operations impedes travel, business, and effective diplomacy. A full Embassy staff, which we hope will include U.S. Department of Agriculture personnel, can support continued work on the 2016 agriculture memoranda of understanding, especially in plant and animal health, and to create conditions for two-way trade, including Cuban exports. American agriculture supports a Cuba policy based on our broad national interests, enabling citizens and business across our country to engage freely.

We are confident that such a course will have strong bipartisan support, and we urge you to take it.

We appreciate your consideration of our views.

Sincerely,

 USA Rice Federation

National Corn Growers Association

American Soybean Association

US Grains Council

U.S. Wheat Associates

National Sorghum Producers

National Potato Council

National Association of Wheat Growers

National Onion Association

National Turkey Federation

US Dry Bean Council

Keesling Farms-Chase,

Kansas Isbell Farms-England,

 Arkansas American Feed Industry

Michigan Agri-Business Association

 Minnesota Department of Agriculture

 Virginia Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services

Iowa Corn Growers Association

Cultivating New Frontiers in Agriculture

Kansas Wheat Commission

 Hoverson Farms-Larimore,

North Dakota Sietsema Farms, Allendale,

Michigan Allied Potato-Bakersfield, California

Posted in Blog | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

BIDEN PLOTS CUBA RESET IN REBUKE OF TRUMP’S SANCTIONS

By Ben Bartenstein

Bloomberg, December 15, 2020, 11:00 a.m. EST

Original Article: Cuba Reset

President-elect Joe Biden’s team plans to bring the U.S. closer to normalized relations with Cuba, reversing many of the sanctions and regulations imposed during the Trump administration, according to people familiar with the matter.

That strategy includes reducing restrictions on travel, investment and remittances for the island nation that are perceived to disproportionately hurt Americans and ordinary Cubans, said the people, who requested anonymity because the new administration is still coming together. Other measures that target Cuba for human rights abuses would remain in place, the people said.

The prospect of a détente between Washington and Havana rekindles memories of the thaw that Biden helped champion during the Obama administration, when the two nations restored diplomatic ties that had been broken for decades following Fidel Castro’s rise to power.

But the president-elect is returning to an even messier scene: the Cuban economy is suffering its worst crisis since the collapse of the Soviet Union amid fallout from Covid-19 and U.S. sanctions. At the same time, Cuban intelligence officers have helped prop up Nicolas Maduro in Venezuela, allowing his regime to consolidate its grip on power in defiance of demands for free and fair elections.

With a packed domestic agenda, it’s unclear how quickly Biden will move on implementing his Cuba policy. Even if some changes happen early, the ongoing Covid-19 lockdown could delay the benefits of any measures that allow for greater travel to the island. It’s also unclear whether Biden will increase staffing at the U.S. embassy in Havana. The Trump administration pared back diplomatic operations after strange illnesses, including brain trauma, afflicted some U.S. diplomats and their families.

Biden said in October that the U.S. needed a new Cuba policy, though his team has been firm in condemning efforts by Havana to silence dissidents, including a recent raid on a house full of activists and artists.

The president-elect has also denounced Venezuela’s Maduro as a dictator. Just as the Trump administration connected Cuba and Venezuela policy, using sanctions as a tool intended to spur political change, Biden’s team may try to leverage a rapprochement in exchange for the Cubans reducing their presence in Venezuela and supporting a diplomatic resolution to the crisis there, according to the people.

Another complicating factor is Florida. While Biden’s advisers have criticized Trump’s Latin American policies for being heavily influenced by electoral politics, particularly the goal of winning the Sunshine State, they still face a sobering reality: The Democratic Party must defend a narrow House majority in 2022. Any policies that are perceived as easing pressure on Cuba and Venezuela without getting significant concessions from their left-wing governments could risk backlash at the polls.

For their part, investors are showing an early vote of confidence in Biden’s potential Cuba policy. The $43 million Herzfeld Caribbean Basin Fund, which is geared toward Cuba and the Caribbean, has surged since the U.S. election.

Posted in Blog | Tagged , | Leave a comment

THE UNITED STATES AND CUBA: A NEW POLICY OF ENGAGEMENT

WASHINGTON- The Washington Office on Latin America and the Center for Democracy in the Americas 

December 17, 2020

Today the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA) and the Center for Democracy in the Americas (CDA) are releasing The United States and Cuba: A New Policy of Engagement,” a roadmap for how the Biden-Harris administration can implement a policy of engagement toward Cuba. Six years after President Barack Obama’s December 17, 2014 announcement that he would begin normalizing relations with Cuba, we continue to emphasize the importance of engagement to advance the interests of the U.S. and of the Cuban people. Engagement accomplished more in two years than the policy of hostility achieved in sixty, and is a more effective strategy to advance the cause of human rights, political liberty, and economic reform. Engagement will facilitate family ties, cultural exchange, and commercial relations, expanding the market for U.S. businesses, raising the standard of living for the Cuban people, and encouraging economic reform on the island. A new policy of engagement entails relatively little political risk and has the potential to mobilize a wide variety of constituencies in support. Our report expands on why Cuba should be a priority, why a variety of bipartisan stakeholders including the business community, Congress, and Cuban Americans support policies of engagement. The roadmap lays out a series of sequenced recommendations in three sections “Repairing the Damage: The First Nine Months,” “Taking the Initiative: The Second Year,” and “Finishing the Job: A Legislative Agenda” detailing how the Biden-Harris administration can move quickly to implement much-needed change in U.S.-Cuba policy. 

The Full Report: The United States and Cuba: A New Policy of Engagement,”




Finishing the Job: A Legislative Agenda

One lesson from the Obama years is that a policy based exclusively on executive action is notenduring. As we have witnessed, a new administration can quickly dismantle it. If we hope to persuade the Cuban government that a constructive relationship with the United States is possible and will flourish to the extent that Cuba moves toward a more open political and economic system, Cuban authorities must be convinced that U.S. policy is durable. That will require legislative action to remove some of the constraints on engagement that Congress has enacted over the years, first and foremost the embargo. Ending the embargo is Cuba’s highest priority in its relationship with the United States; so long as the embargo remains in place, progress toward a more normal relationship will be limited.

Regardless of which party ultimately holds the majority in the U.S. Senate, the administration should publicly express support for legislation to end the embargo, and work with the bipartisan Cuba Working Group in the House and champions for engagement in the Senate to cultivate congressional leadership on engagement.

First Steps

Two actions that could gain some Republican support are repeal of the Cuba-related sections in the Trade Sanctions Reform and Export Enhancement Act of 2000 (TSRA) that limit travel and agricultural sales.

• Repeal the prohibition on travel to Cuba that is not expressly licensed in the CACR.

• Repeal the limits on the use of credits for financing U.S. agricultural sales to Cuba.

Several additional measures would facilitate commercial ties:

• Repeal Section 211, a special interest provision of U.S. law that invalidates certain Cuban trademarks in the United States and threatens reciprocal protection for U.S. brands.

• Approve an amendment that, notwithstanding any other provision of law, authorizes the United States to provide Cuba with foreign assistance for the purpose of developing  sustainable energy sources and implementing its 100 year plan to mitigate and adapt to climate change.

Ending the Embargo

The embargo is a central obstacle to the normalization of relations with Cuba, as President Obama recognized when he called on Congress to repeal it. For Congress to repeal the embargo it would have to amend a number of different statutes in addition to the TSRA.33 The most important:

• Repeal the Cuban Democracy Act of 1992, or at least the sections that limit the freedom of U.S. subsidiaries in third countries to do business with Cuba, and that prevent vessels engaged in commerce with Cuba from entering U.S. ports for 180 days.

• Repeal the Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity Act of 1996, or at least the sections that inscribe the embargo into law, prohibit U.S. support for Cuban participation in IFIs, and impose extraterritorial sanctions on other countries (Titles III and IV).

• Repeal the section of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 that authorizes the president to unilaterally impose a trade embargo on Cuba.

Once the embargo is no longer mandated by law, the President can lift it simply by not renewing the emergency authorities under the Trading with The Enemy Act. If economic sanctions against Cuba are called for in the future, they can be imposed under the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA).

Some legal scholars argue that the President has the authority to end the embargo by executive order. Because the embargo regulations codified by the LIBERTAD Act include the President’s licensing authority without any limitation, there is a legal argument that the licensing power extends to ending the embargo entirely.34 The principal rationale for such a step would be President Clinton’s contention, in his signing statement, that certain passages of the law, including codification, constitute unconstitutional infringements on the President’s authority to conduct foreign policy.35

33 For an effort to compile a complete list of the amendments required, H.R. 403 (Mr. Rangel) 114th Congress 1st Session, January 16, 2015.

34 Robert L. Muse, “The President Has the Constitutional Power to Unilaterally Terminate the Embargo on Cuba,” Global Americans, October 8, 2020, ttps://theglobalamericans.org/2020/10/the-president-has-the-constitutional-power-to-unilaterally-terminate-the-embargo-on-cuba/. For concurring opinions, see Kevin J. Fandl, “Adios Embargo: The Case for Executive Termination of the U.S. Embargo on Cuba,” 54 Am. Bus. L.J. 293; and Pete Jeydel, “How Much of the Cuba Embargo Could the President Unilaterally Lift?” Steptoe International Compliance Blog, October 21, 2016, https://www.steptoeinternationalcomplianceblog.com/2016/10/how-much-of-the-cuba-embargo-could-the-president-unilaterally-lift/.35 William J. Clinton, “Statement on Signing the Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity (LIBERTAD) Act of 1996,” March 12, 1996. The American Presidency Project, ttps://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/222515. For the constitutionality of the LIBRTAD Act, see Joaquin Roy, “Lawyers Meet the Law: Critical U.S Voices of Helms-Burton,” Yearbook of International Law, 6, 39 (1997/1998)

Posted in Blog | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

CUBA STUDY GROUP Press Release: STATEMENT ON THE NEW CUBA REGULATIONS

Original Here: THE NEW CUBA REGULATIONS

November 9, 2017

The regulations announced on November 8 2017 are highly counterproductive.

Instead of supporting the Cuban private sector, as the administration has stated, new travel rules harm Cuban entrepreneurs and their employees by making it more difficult for individual Americans to visit the island and patronize their businesses. Rather than deal a lasting blow to the Cuban military, the ban on U.S. interaction with 180 Cuban state enterprises imposes unwieldly, and arguably unenforceable, regulatory burdens on U.S. citizens. More generally, these measures represent a setback to the broader process of normalization, which continues to be overwhelmingly popular with both the U.S. and Cuban people.

The Cuba Study Group disagrees, in particular, with the Trump administration’s decision to ban non-academic educational and individual people-to-people travel. The free flow of people, ideas, information, and goods helps, rather than hinders, the cause of meaningful reform on the island. Moreover, U.S. travelers frequent privately-owned rooms and other small businesses at a higher rate than visitors from any other country. President Trump’s measures will therefore hit the island’s private sector hardest, not the government, as tourists from other countries will continue to patronize state-owned companies and hotels.

Raúl Castro is slated to step down from the presidency in early 2018. At the same time, the country’s internal economic agenda has stagnated, and Hurricane Irma just devastated wide swaths of the island’s northern coast.

At this juncture of uncertainty and transition, it is in the best interest of the United States to remain engaged as the island confronts multiple challenges. By providing the Cuban government an excuse to revive a siege mentality, the Trump administration’s policies ultimately favor those in Cuba in a position to benefit most from the status quo where essential economic and political reforms continue to be neglected. As in the pre-normalization era, the Cuban people, and not the Cuban government, will most keenly feel the results.

Posted in Blog | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

TRUMP’S NEW CUBA SANCTIONS MISS THEIR MARK

aqlogo_white

BY WILLIAM M. LEOGRANDE | NOVEMBER 9, 2017

Original Article: SANCTIONS MISS THEIR MARK

REGULATIONS ON TRAVEL AND TRADE WILL LIKELY HAVE LITTLE IMPACT ON CUBA’S GOVERNMENT, HURTING ORDINARY CUBANS INSTEAD.

After two years of restored diplomatic ties, new U.S. regulations on Cuba are bringing back a thicket of travel, financial and trade restrictions – and a tougher stance toward the island. The goal of these restrictions, according to U.S. President Donald Trump, is to starve the Cuban government of money from travel, remittances and commercial ties. But the real victims of the new sanctions will be U.S. residents whose right to travel is curtailed, Cuban families who depend on remittances to survive, the struggling Cuban private sector, and U.S. businesses that will face an even greater disadvantage competing with Asian and European firms.

The regulations issued by the Treasury and Commerce Departments on Nov. 8 re-impose significant limits on educational travel to Cuba that former President Barack Obama relaxed. They also redefine “prohibited officials of the Government of Cuba” expansively, potentially cutting off remittances to hundreds of thousands of Cuban families. Finally, they prohibit anyone subject to U.S. jurisdiction from engaging in any “direct financial transactions” with entities controlled by the Cuban military or security forces that “disproportionately benefits” those entities.

All this marks the implementation of new sanctions Trump announced on June 16, 2017, at a Cuban American rally in Miami. The sanctions were mandated by the National Security Presidential Memorandum the president signed onstage, and included several major changes to the Cuban Assets Control Regulations (CACR), which spell out the operational details of the U.S. embargo.

Educational travel

In January 2011, Obama relaxed restrictions that former President George W. Bush had imposed on educational exchanges with Cuba – restrictions so onerous they eliminated most U.S. study abroad programs. Trump’s new regulations re-impose the Bush era restrictions, albeit with some exceptions for students accompanied by a representative of their U.S. academic institution. When combined with the State Department’s Sept. 29 travel warning advising people not to visit Cuba at all because of the injuries suffered by two dozen personnel at the U.S. embassy, the new restrictions on educational travel could drastically reduce U.S. study abroad in Cuba, which had been on the upswing since 2014.

U.S. visitors traveling under the “people-to-people” educational license (for educational travel not leading to an academic degree) can no longer travel on their own. They must now travel with organized groups under the auspices of a U.S.-based, licensed travel provider. Obama had lifted the group travel requirement in March 2016, providing an immediate boon to Cuba’s emerging private sector because individual travelers are much more likely to stay at private B&Bs (casas particulares), eat in private restaurants (paladares), take private taxis, and hire private guides. Most organized groups are too large for private rentals and thus have to be booked into government-owned hotels. Consequently, although Trump’s policy purports to boost Cuba’s private sector, the prohibition on individualized people-to-people travel hits the private sector hardest.

Although Cuban private businesses may suffer, the new travel regulations are not likely to put a huge dent in the number of U.S. visitors. The volume of travelers from the United States jumped dramatically in 2015, up 77 percent over 2014, after Obama and Cuba’s President Raúl Castro announced their intention to normalize relations in December 2014. This surge occurred before Obama ended the prohibition on individualized “people-to-people” travel. U.S. visitors are far more likely to be deterred by the State Department’s travel warning. Even then, a significant decline in U.S. visitors will not do serious damage to the Cuban tourist industry, which hosted four million foreign visitors in 2016 and is on track to host 4.7 million this year, of which only seven percent were non-Cuban American U.S. visitors.

Remittances

The new regulations redefine “prohibited officials of the Government of Cuba” to include all employees of the Ministry of the Revolutionary Armed Forces and Ministry of the Interior, thousands of ordinary Cubans who volunteer as leaders of their local Committees for the Defense of the Revolution, as well as senior government and party officials. The previous regulatory definition of prohibited officials, put into place by Obama in October 2016, was limited to members of the Council of Ministers and flag officers of the Revolutionary Armed Forces. The new definition encompasses hundreds of thousands of people, since the armed forces manage a significant number of commercial enterprises such as the Gaviota hotel chain and TRD Caribe retail stores, especially in the fast-growing tourism sector.

Cubans who are “prohibited” are not allowed to receive payments from U.S. nationals. That includes remittances and gift packages (Cuban Assets Control Regulations,  §515.570), so the new regulations could potentially deprive hundreds of thousands of Cuban families of support from their relatives abroad. However, the actual impact is harder to predict. There is no way to enforce this prohibition since the U.S. government does not have a list of all the people covered in the expanded definition. Moreover, Cuban Americans can carry funds and gift packages to family when they travel or can wire funds through third countries, just as they did in 1994 when former U.S. President Bill Clinton tried, unsuccessfully, to cut off remittances to punish Cuba for the balsero (rafters) migration crisis.

Apart from whether the new prohibition proves effective, it would seem to run counter to the purported aim of Trump’s policy to empower the Cuban people by directing U.S. funds to them, rather than to the Cuban government. Remittances are by far best way to do that because the dollars go directly to family on the island.

Transactions with military-linked enterprises

The most complex regulatory change is the prohibition on engaging in any “direct financial transactions” with businesses controlled by the Cuban military or security forces if they “disproportionately benefit” those forces. This is a potentially significant prohibition because the Cuban armed forces ministry administers commercial holding companies involved in everything from banking and port management to hotels and retail sales. The presence of military enterprises is greatest in the tourist sector, where both U.S. visitors and U.S. companies are most likely to encounter them.

The U.S. Department of State was tasked with creating a list of prohibited enterprises, which it released along with the new regulations. The list includes 180 entities, 58 percent of which are in the tourist sector, including 84 hotels – by far the largest category of businesses included. Some of the entities listed are holding companies for hundreds of retail outlets, but U.S. travelers and companies can still do business with subsidiaries of prohibited entities so long as the subsidiaries themselves are not specifically listed. Quite reasonably, the State Department took the view that it could not expect travelers to know which retail outlets might be subsidiaries of prohibited entities unless they were specifically named.

Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Representative Mario Díaz-Balart (R-Fla.), who were the intellectual authors of the ban on transactions with military-linked enterprises, complained that the State Department’s list was not inclusive enough because “bureaucrats” were “refusing” to carry out Trump’s policy. Rubio wanted to see the entire Cuban tourist sector put off-limits because the Minister of Tourism, Manuel Marrero Cruz, is a former military officer. According to Rubio, that means the entire sector is controlled by the armed forces.

The Cuban government was not happy with the sanctions either. Josefina Vidal, Director General for U.S. Affairs in the Foreign Ministry, said the new measures “confirm the serious regress of bilateral relations as a result of the decisions adopted by the government of the President Donald Trump,” and called some of them “subversive.”

In truth, the impact of these sanctions on commercial relations with Cuba is likely to be limited. The Cuban government, adept at coping with U.S. hostility for the past half century, may feel the pinch, but it can look elsewhere for trade partners and tourists. Also, in order to avoid disrupting ongoing business relationships, the new regulations exempt existing contracts from the prohibition on doing business with military-linked enterprises. So, for example, Marriott-Starwood Hotels’ contract to manage hotels owned by holding companies administered by the armed forces ministry is not affected by the new regulations. Moreover, even future contracts will be allowed with military-linked businesses involving ports, airports, and telecommunications, which are the three sectors in which most U.S. businesses (cruise ship lines, airlines, and cell phone companies) now operate.

On balance, the regulatory burden falls most heavily on U.S. academic institutions, whose study abroad programs in Cuba will be curtailed; on U.S. travelers who can no longer travel by themselves on a people-to-people educational license; on Cuban-Americans whose families on the island who will no longer be eligible to receive remittances and gift packages; and on U.S. businesses that may want to sell goods to Cuba in sectors where their counterparts are commercial enterprises managed by the armed forces ministry.

The Cubans who will suffer most are small business owners, suppliers, and employees who cater to individual U.S. travelers; employees of state firms managed by the armed forces ministry and their families, who may lose remittances and gifts; and Cubans who might have found employment with U.S. companies whose potential business deals are now blocked.

The Cuban state will suffer only marginally from Trump’s new sanctions – certainly not enough to force it into the sorts of concessions Washington demands.

 

 

Posted in Blog | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

IS TRUMP USING ‘HEALTH ATTACKS’ ON US DIPLOMATS IN HAVANA AS AN EXCUSE TO PUNISH CUBA?

Published in The Conversation, October 4, 2017

Original article: An excuse to punish Cuba?

By William M. LeoCrande

In a blow to diplomatic relations with Cuba, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Oct. 3 ejected 15 Cuban diplomats from the United States. The expulsion follows his withdrawal of most U.S. personnel from the embassy in Havana after 22 American diplomats and family members there suffered unexplained health problems.

Last November, some U.S. personnel in Havana began experiencing a range of symptoms, including hearing impairment, nausea, dizziness and mild cognitive impairment. The people affected first and most severely were intelligence officers, but later victims held a variety of positions in the U.S. Embassy. Several Canadian diplomats were also affected.

The United States informed the Cuban government of these incidents on Feb. 17, 2017. Four days later, Cuban President Raúl Castro met with then U.S. Charge d’Affaires Jeffrey DeLaurentis and, pledging full cooperation, invited the FBI to investigate.

So far, though, the investigation has been unable to determine the perpetrator or motivebehind the mysterious attacks. Nearly a year after the first incidents, nobody even knows how the attacks were carried out. U.S. officials initially blamed some sort of sophisticated sonic weapon, but scientists have questioned whether sound waves alone could have produced the reported symptoms.

In this context, withdrawing U.S. personnel is arguably a reasonable precaution. But, in my view, expelling Cuban diplomats despite Cuba’s cooperation in the investigation is baseless and counterproductive. During the 40 years I’ve studied U.S.-Cuban relations, domestic politics, rather than foreign policy interests, have often driven U.S. policy, and I believe that’s what is happening now.

Sentence first, trial afterwards

State Department officials doubt that the Cuban government is behind the incidents. No evidence has emerged implicating Cuban officials, and Cuba is cooperating with the investigation.

Nevertheless, opponents of President Barack Obama’s 2014-2016 rapprochement with Cubahave successfully seized upon the mysterious injuries as an excuse to punish Cuba, wreaking havoc on relations that had been improving. As the Red Queen said to Alice in Wonderland, “Sentence first, trial afterwards.”

When the diplomats’ health problems were first reported publicly in August 2017, Sen. Marco Rubio, Republican of Florida and a vociferous opponent of normalizing relations, demanded that President Trump close the U.S. Embassy and expel all Cuban diplomats from the United States.

Instead, on Friday, Sept. 29, Tillerson announced the withdrawal of nonessential personnel, suspended visa processing for Cubans seeking to enter the U.S. and issued a travel warning advising Americans not to travel to Cuba. In a press release, Rubio denounced his actions as “weak, unacceptable and outrageous,” and took to Twitter to demand that Cuban envoys be expelled.

Marco Rubio  ✔@marcorubio
Some at @StateDept want massive drawdown of Americans at @USEmbCuba but allow Castro to keep regime embassy in DC virtually the same 1/2 Marco Rubio ✔@marcorubio
So Castro regime allows attacks on Americans forcing us to drawdown to keep them safe but he gets to keep about same # of people here? 2/2  9:20 AM – Sep 29, 2017

A few days later, on Oct. 3, Tillerson finally did what Rubio demanded. Cuban American U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, also a Republican of Florida and an opponent of Obama’s normalization process, pronounced herself “pleased as punch” at the expulsions.

Denormalization

This was not what U.S. diplomats wanted. The American Foreign Service Association, the union representing Foreign Service officers, opposed the withdrawal from Havana as contrary to U.S. interests. “We have a mission to do and we’re used to operating around the globe with serious health risks,” association president Barbara Stephenson told the news network CNN.

The expulsion of its diplomats isn’t the only punishment Washington has inflicted on Cuba. Some half a million Cubans depend on tourism for their livelihood, and it contributes about 10 percent to Cuba’s gross domestic product. The travel warning will deter U.S. visitors from going to the island, hurting the economy at a time when it is already suffering from the damage done by Hurricane Irma.

The sweeping and categorical nature of the travel warning is also unwarranted, considering that the State Department believes U.S. diplomats were the targets of “specific attacks” and no U.S. visitors have suffered any injury.

Canada, by contrast, issued no travel advisory after its personnel were injured, nor did its government withdraw Canadian diplomats from Havana or expel their Cuban counterparts from Ottawa.

Finally, by temporarily suspending visa processing for Cubans seeking to enter the United States, Washington risks violating the 1994 migration accord, which commits the United States to accept a minimum of 20,000 Cuban immigrants annually. That commitment will be almost impossible to meet now.

Predictably, as the United States has ratcheted up these punishments, the tone of Cuba’s response has become defiant. In Granma, Cuba’s Communist Party newspaper, the Foreign Ministry on Oct. 3 condemned the expulsion of its diplomats as “unfounded and unacceptable,” and rejected “categorically” any Cuban responsibility for the incidents.

Noting the absence of evidence as to perpetrator or means, Cuba for the first time questioned whether any attacks had even occurred.

The Trump administration has let a legitimate concern over the safety of U.S. diplomats become an excuse for reversing key elements of Obama’s policy of engagement, caving in to the political demands of those who, like Rubio and Ros-Lehtinen, opposed normalizing relations with Cuba from the outset.

By so doing, I think the administration has fallen into a trap. Whoever is responsible for the attacks on U.S. diplomats in Havana almost certainly did it to disrupt the rapprochement between the United States and Cuba. The U.S. response is handing that shadowy adversary a victory.

Lineup to enter the Consular Service at dawn at the US Embassy in Cuba, March 2011. Presumably the withdrawal of US diplomats will damage the consular service for Cubans wishing to travel to or migrate to the United States. (Photo by Arch Ritter)

Posted in Blog | Tagged , | Leave a comment

New Publication: CUBA: LOOKING TOWARD THE FUTURE

CUBA: LOOKING TOWARD THE FUTURE

William LeoGrande, Guest Co-editor; Arien Mack, Journal Editor

TABLE OF CONTENTS

William M. Leogrande, Introduction: Cuba Looks to the Future                235

 

PART I: UPDATING THE ECONOMY

Ricardo Torres Pérez, Updating the Cuban Economy: The First 10 Years                                                                                                                            255

Archibald R.M. Ritter,   Private and Cooperative Enterprise in Cuba’s Economic Future                                                                                                                           277

Richard E. Feinberg,  Bienvenida—Maybe: Cuba’s Gradual Opening to World Markets                                                                                                                          305

Katrin Hansing,  Race and Inequality in the New Cuba: Reasons, Dynamics, and Manifestations                                                                                                               331

 

PART II: FACING POLITICAL CHALLENGES

William M. Leogrande,  Updating Cuban Socialism: The Politics of Economic Renovation                                                                                                                     353

Margaret E. Crahan, Cuba: Religion and Civil Society                                          383

Rafael Hernández, Intellectuals, Civil Society, and Political Power in Cuban Socialism  407

Ted A. Henken, Cuba’s Digital Millennials: Independent Digital Media and Civil Society on the Island of the Disconnected                                                                                     429

 

PART III: ENGAGING THE WORLD

 

Philip Brenner And Teresa Garcia Castro,  A Long Legacy of Distrust and the Future of Cuban-US Relations                                                                                                    459

Carlos Oliva Campos And Gary Prevost,  Cuba’s Relations with Latin America   487

Mervyn J. Bain, Havana, Moscow, and Beijing: Looking to the Future in the Shadow of the Past                                                                                                                                          507

 

 

Posted in Blog | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

WILL TRUMP OPEN A PANDORA’S BOX OF LITIGATION OVER CUBAN PROPERTY?

If the president fails to continue the suspension of Title III, business relations will be disrupted far more severely and irreparably than they would be by any regulatory change.

William M. LeoGrande,  Professor of Government at American University

Huffington Post, 07/10/2017 02:34 pm ET |

Original Article: Pandora’s Box of Litigation?

Signing the “Helms-Burton Bill”

Long before the Departments of State, Treasury, and Commerce finish writing the new regulations that President Trump ordered to restrict trade and travel to Cuba, the president will face another decision on relations with Havana that could be far more consequential for U.S. businesses. By July 16, he will have to decide whether to continue suspending certain provisions of Title III of the Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity Act of 1996 (also known as Helms-Burton, after its sponsors).

If he allows Title III to go fully into effect, he will open the door to as many as 200,0000 lawsuits by U.S. nationals whose property was taken by the Cuban government after 1959.

U.S. courts would be swamped, the ability of U.S. companies to do business on the island would be crippled, and allies abroad might retaliate for U.S. suits brought against their companies in Cuba. The tangle of resulting litigation would take years to unwind.

Title III allows U.S. nationals to file suit in U.S. courts against anyone “trafficking” in their confiscated property in Cuba—that is, anyone assuming an equity stake in it or profiting from it. The U.S. Foreign Claims Settlement Commission has certified 5,913 claims of U.S. nationals whose property was seized. These are the claims that Cuba and the United States had begun to discuss during the Obama administration.

But Title III takes the unusual position of allowing naturalized Cuban Americans who lost property to also file suit against alleged traffickers. Normally, international law recognizes the sovereign right of governments to dispose of the property of their own citizens. According to the Department of State, by including Cuban Americans who were not U.S. citizens when their property was taken, Title III creates the potential for an estimated 75,000-200,000 claims worth “tens of billions of dollars.”

Back in 1996, angry opposition from U.S. allies Canada, Mexico, and Western Europe, whose companies doing business in Cuba would be the targets of Title III law suits, led President Bill Clinton to insist on a presidential waiver provision in Title III when Congress was debating the law. As a result, the president has the authority to suspend for six months the right to file Title III law suits, and he can renew that suspension indefinitely. Every six months since the Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity Act was passed, successive presidents, Democrat and Republican alike, have continued the suspension of Title III.

The Morning Email

Bottom of Form

If President Trump does not renew the suspension by July 16, however, claimants will be free to file Title III law suits by the tens of thousands. Once the suits have been filed, there will be no way to undo the resulting legal chaos.

When the Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity Act was passed, U.S. allies in the Americas and Europe denounced its extraterritorial reach. Mexico, Canada, and the United Kingdom passed laws prohibiting compliance with it. The European Union filed a complaint with the World Trade Organization, which it dropped after President Clinton suspended Title III. In fact, the principal justification both President Clinton and President George W. Bush offered for continuing the suspension was the need to maintain cooperation with European allies.

If President Trump does not renew the suspension, all these old wounds with allies will be reopened as U.S. claimants try to haul foreign companies into U.S. courts for doing business in Cuba. We already have enough tough issues on our agenda with Mexico, Canada, and Europe without adding another one.

U.S. businesses would not be exempt from potential liability. A Cuban American family in Miami claims to have owned the land on which José Martí International Airport was built, so any U.S. carrier using the air field could be sued under Title III. Another family that owned the Port of Santiago could file suit against U.S. cruise ships docking there.

Moreover, it would be almost impossible for a U.S. company to know in advance whether a proposed business opportunity in Cuba might become the subject of Title III litigation. “This will effectively end for decades any attempt to restore trade between the U.S. and Cuba,” attorney Robert Muse told the Tampa Bay Times.

Explaining the new trade and travel regulations that President Trump announced on June 16, senior administration officials said they were designed “to not disrupt existing business” that U.S. companies were doing in Cuba. If the president fails to continue the suspension of Title III, business relations will be disrupted far more severely and irreparably than they would be by any regulatory change.

Posted in Blog | Tagged , , | Leave a comment