Is US-Cuba Immigration & Remittances Policy Loosening up?

“News has spread that the foreign entity RevoluGROUP Canada Inc. has included Cuba on its list of destination countries to send remittances.”

By El Toque

HAVANA TIMES – US-Cuba relations have become a trending topic on Cuban social media after different articles went viral on the issue in recent weeks. Camilo Condis, Lucia March and Maykel Gonzalez spoke about this on El Ejambre, elTOQUE’s podcast.

These young people spoke about the announcement made by different Cuban government media outlets about President Joe Biden allegedly authorizing remittances to be sent to Cuba. This information immediately sparked confusion about whether the current US Administration had in fact changed its policy towards Cuba.  

The El Ejambre hosts clarified that remittances aren’t themselves banned; it’s Cuban military-owned companies being involved in the process that is prohibited. “Even Granma published the news that Cuban-American Carlos Lazo initially gave, but there’s no official change in the US Administration’s policy. Government journalists should have verified the information before publishing it and echoing it,” Camilo says.

The interesting thing for this podcaster is that a note was published on the Cuban Central Bank’s website, under the heading “Information of Interest” that explained the following:

“News has spread that the foreign entity RevoluGROUP Canada Inc. has included Cuba on its list of destination countries to send remittances.

“In this regard, we inform that no Cuban financial institution, or of any other kind, has a contract or formal relationship with RevoluGROUP, thus the formality and security of these transactions is not recognized.

“We ratify that that US Government still upholds it bans and coercive measures implemented between 2020 and 2021 against Cuban financial institutions.”

Given popular queries on the issue, Diario de Cuba interviewed Cuban economist Emilio Morales, president of Havana Consulting Group and vice-president of RevoluGROUP in the US. The responses he gave to this media outlet were repeated by Morales in a press conference on March 8th. 

The businessman explained that, given the exceptional need to send remittances to Cuba right now, RevoluGROUP Canada had decided to add Cuba to its list of destination countries for remittances. The decision was made before studying the Law and sanctions in place, so necessary adjustments were made on the platform to satisfy specific requirements imposed by regulations from the US Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) in regard to the Cuban market. When registering for the platform, for example, users undergo a verification process to ensure that military members or other repressors are not benefitting from remittances or using this system, adhering to the list of those sanctioned by the US Department of the Treasury. 

According to Morales, the company is abiding by the Biden Administration’s wishes to find a viable solution to restore remittance services to Cuba, without these passing through Cuban military-led companies’ hands. He denied outright that the US Government has authorized RevoluGROUP explicitly to do this, although he does indicate the company informed the US Department of the Treasury about the platform’s availability, its features, levels of security, reach and future steps for this online payment platform to adapt to regulations imposed on the Cuban market. According to his statements, this is all in keeping with the Law and specifications from OFAC.

Morales’ most controversial statements include the assurance that money moving via RevoluGROUP “will not pass or ever pass through any Cuban military-led company” and that this company “will not have a contractual relationship with any Cuban entity, now or ever.”

“This company is trying to send money directly to the recipients of these remittances, which will arrive on their MLC cards directly,” Camilo explains. Nevertheless, Maykel points out that by depositing this money on MLC cards, this money will still end up in the hands of the Cuban Government and its companies, as it’s practically impossible to withdraw cash from these cards.

Other news linked to US-Cuba relations is the an article published by El Nuevo Herald. It has to do with a draft bill to resume the family reunification parole program, which allows eligible Cuban-Americans to bring their loved ones over to the US with a special permit while they wait for their immigration visas.  

“This has been the news of the week because people have been waiting years for this reunification,” Maykel says. Camilo stresses that this is just a proposal for now and that we have to wait and see if it will be approved. “This program was suspended after the “sonic accidents” in Havana, and there are over 22,000 applications pending to be processed for this Cuban family reunification parole program, almost the same number of Cubans who have crossed the US border this year.”

The El Nuevo Herald article explains that the draft bill instructs secretaries of National Security and US Department of State to begin to process family reunification parole applications and to appoint personnel to the US Embassy in Havana, from its agencies. According to the Law, parole granted by the program will be valid for an initial period of at least two years. This temporary timeline will allow many Cubans who arrive with parole to seek permanent residency, by invoking the Cuban Adjustment Act.

Another piece of good news in this regard highlighted by El Enjambre’s podcast hosts was the press conference given by the US Embassy in Havana, which announced it would resume a limited number of visa services to facilitate its diplomatic commitment and to expand consular services. Details are still forthcoming.

Follow this link to listen to al El Enjambre episodes in Spanish only.

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