Biden’s New Measures, US Companies and the Cuban Market

By El Toque

HAVANA TIMES – After the US Government announced new measures for Cuba, the Akerman law firm based in Miami, and with members active in the thawing process of US-Cuba relations during Obama presidency, believe that many US business owners won’t take the risk again and enter the island with the same enthusiasm.

With 24 offices located across the US, these lawyers are basing this assumption upon the fact that cruise lines, airlines and other travel service providers have found themselves mixed up in legal proceedings for years because of lawsuits filed under Title III of the 1996 Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity (Libertad) Act or Helms-Burton Act. 

“It’s likely many US companies will think twice before entering the Cuban market again, and some might never go back. Companies that decide to operate on the island should consider the possibility of running extra diligence to minimize any potential exposure to lawsuits linked to the Helms-Burton Act. Anyhow, they aren’t expecting the same travel boom from the US that happened in 2015-2016,” they announced.

During the Obama Administration, Akerman’s clients grew from 12 to 25, including seven businesses with the highest gross annual income, according to Fortune magazine’s list

They have guided and advised US business owners with an interest in investing in Cuba for years and specialize in the Law and relations between both countries. It is with this experience and expertise that the lawyers believe the announcement on May 16, 2022, came too late and is far too little.

Other measures of interest 

Just like the experts explained in a newsletter on May 25th that included different points, the first measures to be implemented are stepping up travel to the island and eliminating the cap on remittances. 

On June 8th the US Department of the Treasury announced the elimination of the 1000 USD limit every trimester for remittances and updated requirements for sending money in this way for independent, religious, civil society NGOs and the self-employed. 

Regarding US citizens traveling to Cuba, while individual visits known as “people to people” visits are still banned, group trips for educational activities under certain circumstances are now authorized: “accompanying an employee, paid consultant or agent from a sponsored organization; having a full-time program of activities that have the mission of improving contact with the Cuban people, supporting civil society in Cuba or promoting Cuban people’s independence from the Cuban Government; and that lead to meaningful interactions with people in Cuba.”  

Akerman explained that “other [changes] like those announced for technology using the Internet and e-commerce platforms could take longer. US citizens aren’t authorized to engage in any of these activities until the new law is published.”

They also took the news of more visa applications being processed by the US Embassy in Havana with a pinch of caution. There have been very few personnel working at the embassy for almost five years, and there is a back-log of applications. It’ll probably take a few months before the Embassy has enough personnel working again and to get on top of all the applications.

Remittances and e-commerce platforms are another complicated “point”, according to the lawyers. “[Contrary] to popular belief, the Trump Administration never banned remittances to Cuba. However, it did become illegal for US banks and companies [to deal] with certain Cuban entities involved in the business of processing remittances and payments,” they explained. “It’s hard to see how US money-sending and e-commerce companies can work in Cuba without certain changes to Cuba’s financial services sector, which have yet to be made.”

Akerman believes that it is still too early to know whether these changes are a one-off solution to try and fix the economic crisis in Cuba with the illegal flood of migrants this results in, or whether it is the beginning of Biden’s new policy towards Cuba. We’ll have to keep an eye on the Office of Foreign Assets Control at the US Department of the Treasury and the Bureau of Industry and Security of the US Department of Commerce, who are responsible for managing sanctions to Cuba and will need to publish amendments to federal regulations.

The turning point of these measures announced by the US Administration has also been assessed by Scott Hamilton, a retired diplomat who was Deputy Chief of Mission and Charge d’Affaires in Cuba, and director of the Office of Central American Affairs, as well as holding other positions.

According to Hamilton, the Biden Administration has its own share of guilt in betraying the Cuban people and these measures don’t go far enough. He says that “it’s time to renew full constructive engagement, including individual US travel, and stop punishing the Cuban people for the sins of an elite over which they have no control.”  

With experience as the deputy chief of Mission at the US Embassy duting 2015-2017, he says that a more constructive US policy will benefit both countries, especially the Cuban people. The theory that economic sanctions will lead to a change in government has failed and doesn’t even stand up to the test of History. 

As we know, presidential candidates are one thing and presidents are another, so Hamilton rebukes Biden for having promised to reverse Trump’s changes in his campaign, but has done very little up until now. What should be done? The diplomat says the Biden administration should re-open the embassy in Havana at full strength and process every request for asylum and visa application. 

Second, the United States should restore travel rules that allowed individual Americans to visit Cuba and boost the Cuban private sector. “In themselves, such changes will not produce the regime change of Florida fantasy. But they will help to lighten the indelible stain on the diplomatic reputation of the United States that two generations of morally bankrupt policies have produced,” he concludes.

Read more from Cuba here on Havana Times

9 thoughts on “Biden’s New Measures, US Companies and the Cuban Market

  • Nick: there are no travel regulations to “dodge” in the US. They are very simple and no problems to deal with.

    US chicken is produced at a low price because of modern day production process techniques with maximum automation and minimal human action. Now if you were to say it is not humane, I would allow you your opinion. But to say it is cheap because it is diseased is simply false and inflammatory. Feel free to eat chicken with the extra sanitation step of the chlorine wash to further reduce salmonella but I’ll opt for that extra protection every time.

  • Bob Michaels,
    Congratulations on your ability to dodge the travel restrictions that various U.S. regimes have sought to place upon their people.
    I have had the privilege of meeting many people from the USA in Cuba and happy to say that most of those I’ve met are very good ambassadors for your wealthy country.
    According to people who know far more about economics than I do, China, with a different form of corrupt governance than that of the USA is gonna become the biggest economy in the world at some point this century.
    And I’m not saying that this is a good thing.
    By the way I’m not a big fan of chicken myself. The type of chicken that is sold cheaply in the USA is often diseased due to the appalling production methods. Once dead, the chicken is soaked in a chlorine solution to disinfect. It’s importation is banned in the EU.
    It’s interesting to learn that vegetarianism is gaining popularity in Cuba.

  • I see the constant benefit we US travelers have when visiting Cuba as one who travels there 4-5 times a year and spends approximately 1/4 of my time there. We are the continuing reminder that the primary difference in their economic status and ours is our form of government and enterprise.

    Want effective propaganda? Try the weekly Wal-Mart advertising section of any newspaper. Let them question why a similar refrigerator costs twice as much in a Cuban government store as in the US. Or, any big grocery store ad. Let them see we can buy chicken for a bit less than they pay and it is always available 16 hours a day, 7 days a week.

    Unquestionably, the direct economic benefits of our visitation really helps. The real benefit is that constant reminder that the reason they are not more like us economically is their government.

  • Olga, My understanding is that the USA has ‘installed more nuclear warheads’ than any other country in the world. But nuclear warheads have nothing to do with whether or not people from the USA should have their basic rights denied to them by the policies of rogue politicians.
    I think that it’s time for people from the USA to be free to choose what they do and where they go on vacation.
    Olga, You say that the Cuban Government restricts people’s freedoms.
    I would agree with you. It does.
    But you wish to do exactly the same yourself. You actively promote the restriction of people’s freedoms. Therefore any argument you have, immediately falls flat on its face.
    It ain’t rocket science.

  • You want American to go to a country rules by an enemy government that stole Americans citizens properties and in one point installed nuclear war heads and according to Kruschev Castro told him to shoot first. Classic!

  • I hope for freedom and liberty for the people of the USA!!
    They should have the freedom to go where they want and spend their money how they wish. It is self evident that people from the USA should have the same freedoms as Canadians and Europeans!!

  • Democracy, democracia and freedom like you enjoy from London , Paris, Montevideo or Liverpool, humans Rights, freedom of Speech, the basic Right to protest without being send to jail fir 20 years, is very hypocritical that you want USA government open to Cuban dictatorship when right now they are more the 1,667 Cubans some of them minors in jail for the only reason of asking for freedom and the end of the dictatorship. Free election and going back to 1940 constitution like your boy Fidel Castro promised and then betrayed the people. why the ppl of Cuban need to keep a regime that in 63 years can even keep the streets clean or produce and aspirin? Just for your selfish idealism that socialism can be possible ? More sanctions is what I ask no oxygen to thus barbaric regime the European Union already warns the Cuban dictatorship to stop the repression or it will be the end of the collaborations. Look right now what is happening in Poland where ppl rather to have a semi fascist regime (elected by the people) that going back to communism. Perhaps for dated leftists like you Dan and Curt’s of the world that supports the Cuban nightmare and what’s to impose the communist cancer on humanity.

  • People from the USA blabber on about democracy and freedoms and all that stuff. And it’s all fair enough to do so.
    But which European Government would get away with dictating where it’s citizens can and cannot travel to? Would people in Canada put up with such blatant demagoguery?
    In most countries anyone claiming to be a democratic leader would be kicked down the road if they even suggested restrictions on individual liberties in the way that they do in the USA. It would be unthinkable that some despot such as a trump or other such lowlife would be able to restrict travel to Cuba from any other country in the so called ‘free world’.
    It seems that in the ‘Land of the Free’ people are prepared to put up with these governmental restrictions.
    I’m sure that’s not what Benjamin Franklin had in mind when him and his buddies started putting together that big assed constitution that they’ve been banging on about ever since.
    It’s all such a downright self evident shame.

  • Individuals from the US CAN travel to Cuba under the Support for the Cuban people category and not patronize hotels run by the Cuban military. However, even if US citizens do stay in forbidden hotels, how would US authorities even know unless the US travelers are dumb enough to tell them.

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