US Gov. Clampdown on Cuba Business

by Circles Robinson

HAVANA TIMES, May 8 — The US government has imposed a US $110,000 fine on the Dallas, Texas based Varel Holdings Oil Company for exporting technology to Cuba. The Obama administration is the 11th consecutive US government to enforce an economic blockade on Cuba and punish US companies that try to subvert it.

Another company recently fined US $2,000 was EFEX Trade, LLC, for unlicensed remittance forwarding to Cuba.

The fines are levied by the US Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), which spends a good portion of its efforts to block attempts by US businesses to sell to Cuba. It also fines and harasses ordinary US citizens who are caught breaking the travel ban forbidding them to go to the neighboring island.

Numerous oil companies from around the around the world (Russia, Spain, Norway, India, China, Venezuela, Canada, Brazil etc.) are already participating in joint venture projects with Cuba or negotiating. US companies are prohibited from such activity by their own government.

President Obama has said he would like to improve relations with Cuba and Latin America, whose leaders are unanimously demanding he end the half century blockade on Cuba.

However, to date, the new US administration has done nothing more than give traveling privileges’ to Cuban-Americans.

Several bills are in the US Congress that would relax the travel ban on ordinary US citizens as well as chip away at aspects of the economic blockade. Obama has given no indication of whether he would follow the Bush administration policy of threatening to veto any law regarding those issues.

One thought on “US Gov. Clampdown on Cuba Business

  • (corrected and expanded}

    In reality, restrictions on individual travel are unenforceable. Lawyers who monitor OFAC report that no letters challenging unauthorized travel were sent in the last year of the Bush Administration. In addition the cases of anyone who received such a letter and appealed for a hearing had ground to a halt without any punitive action.

    That does not relieve the President of the responsibility of using his power to provide in a non-discrminatory way unlimited non-tourist travel for educational, humanitarian, religious, cultural and sports purposes, just as he did for Cuban Americans. Nor does it mean that the Congress should not end restrictions on the travel of all Americans.

    70% of Americans want that to happen and only Washington’s catering to extremists like Sen. Bob Menendez prevents it.

    Published last week in The Hill:

    Some Cuba policy watchers suspected that Menendez may have had a behind-the-scenes impact on Obama’s decision not to also allow U.S. citizens to travel to Cuba for cultural, academic and humanitarian purposes. This would have marked a return to the policies in effect at the end of the Clinton administration.

    Menendez spoke to Denis McDonough, director of strategic communications at the National Security Council, shortly before Obama announced his Cuba order. McDonough advises the president on Cuba policy.

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