US Relaxes More Aspects of its Embargo on Cuba

Tourists in Havana. Photo: Juan Suarez
Tourists in Havana. Photo: Juan Suarez

HAVANA TIMES — The US government today announced a further easing of some aspects of its embargo on Cuba, which could facilitate travel, trade and finance.

The new measures take effect on Wednesday, announced the US Departments of Treasury and Commerce in a joint statement. The changes do not signify a total lifting of the economic and commercial embargo on Cuba, as only Congress can end the more than half century long policy.

The Obama administration announced that “restrictions on payment terms and financing of authorized exports and re-exports to Cuba of goods will be lifted, as well as on agricultural goods or commodities.”

In addition the policy change will facilitate travel to Cuba under the allowed categories and make possible more air transport to the island.

Transactions with media professionals or artistic productions in Cuba will now be allowed, noted the Departments of Treasury and Commerce. And the list of permitted humanitarian projects will be extended to include disaster preparedness and response.

“Today’s amendments to the Cuban Assets Control Regulations build on successive actions over the last year and send a clear message to the world: the United States is committed to empowering and enabling economic advancements for the Cuban people,” Treasury Secretary Jack Lew said in the statement.

The new measures easing the embargo are part of the process of normalization of relations between the US and Cuba, announced in December 2014. Washington and Havana resumed officially diplomatic relations July 2015.

President Barack Obama has repeatedly asked the Republican-controlled Congress, to lift the embargo on Cuba. But that has yet to happen.

The Cuban government maintains that there will be no normalization of relations between the two countries until Washington lifts the embargo on the island.

Read the complete Commerce Dept. announcement:

Commerce and Treasury Announce Further Amendments to the Cuba Sanctions Regulations

Amendments Further Implement President Obama’s Policy Related to Easing of Sanctions on Cuba

Jan 26, 2016

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Today, the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) and the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) are announcing new amendments to the Cuban Assets Control Regulations (CACR) and Export Administration Regulations (EAR), respectively.  These amendments further implement the new direction toward Cuba that President Obama laid out in December 2014.  The changes will take effect on January 27, 2016, when the regulations are published in the Federal Register.  The new amendments are outlined below.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew said, “Today’s amendments to the Cuban Assets Control Regulations build on successive actions over the last year and send a clear message to the world: the United States is committed to empowering and enabling economic advancements for the Cuban people.  We have been working to enable the free flow of information between Cubans and Americans and will continue to take the steps necessary to help the Cuban people achieve the political and economic freedom that they deserve.”

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker said, “Following the first ever U.S.-Cuba Regulatory Dialogue and my fact-finding trip to Cuba in October, we have been working tirelessly to maximize the beneficial impact of U.S. regulatory changes on the Cuban people.  Today’s Commerce rule builds on previous changes by authorizing additional exports including for such purposes as disaster preparedness; education; agricultural production; artistic endeavors; food processing; and public transportation.  These regulatory changes will also facilitate exports that will help strengthen civil society in Cuba and enhance communications to, from and among the Cuban people.  Looking ahead, we will continue to support greater economic independence and increased prosperity for the Cuban people, as we take another step toward building a more open and mutually beneficial relationship between our two nations.”

These amendments will remove existing restrictions on payment and financing terms for authorized exports and reexports to Cuba of items other than agricultural items or commodities, and establish a case-by-case licensing policy for exports and reexports of items to meet the needs of the Cuban people, including those made to Cuban state-owned enterprises.  These amendments will further facilitate travel to Cuba for authorized purposes by allowing blocked space, code-sharing, and leasing arrangements with Cuban airlines; authorizing additional travel-related and other transactions directly incident to the temporary sojourn of aircraft and vessels; and authorizing additional transactions related to professional meetings and other events, disaster preparedness and response projects, and information and informational materials, including transactions incident to professional media or artistic productions in Cuba.

To see the Treasury regulations, which can be found at 31 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), part 515, please see here.

To see the Commerce regulations, which can be found at 15 CFR part 746, please see here.  Effective January 27, major elements of the changes in the revised regulations include:

Financing
Removing financing restrictions for most types of authorized exports.

  • Restrictions on payment and financing terms for authorized exports and reexports, except for agricultural commodities and agricultural items, will be removed, and U.S. depository institutions will be authorized to provide financing, including, for example, issuing a letter of credit for such exports and reexports.  Currently, payment and financing terms for all authorized exports are restricted to cash-in-advance or third-country financing.  Effective January 27, 2016, examples of permissible payment and financing terms for authorized non-agricultural exports and reexports will include: payment of cash in advance; sales on an open account; and financing by third-country financial institutions or U.S. financial institutions. OFAC is required by statute to maintain the existing limitations on payment and financing terms for the export and reexport of agricultural commodities and agricultural items.

Exports
Additional amendments to increase support for the Cuban people and facilitate authorized exports.

  • Certain Additional Transactions Authorized. OFAC is expanding an existing general license to authorize certain additional travel-related transactionsas are directly incident to the conduct of market research; commercial marketing; sales or contract negotiation; accompanied delivery; installation; leasing; or servicing in Cuba of items consistent with the export or reexport licensing policy of the Department of Commerce, provided that the traveler’s schedule of activities does not include free time or recreation in excess of that consistent with a full-time schedule.
  • Civil society. BIS will generally approve license applications for exports and reexports of commodities and software to human rights organizations or to individuals and non-governmental organizations that promote independent activity intended to strengthen civil society in Cuba.
  • News gathering. BIS will generally approve license applications for exports and reexports of commodities and software to U.S. news bureaus in Cuba whose primary purpose is the gathering and dissemination of news to the general public.
  • Telecommunications. BIS will generally approve license applications for exports and reexports of telecommunications items that would improve communications to, from, and among the Cuban people.
  • Agriculture. BIS will generally approve license applications for exports and reexports of certain agricultural items (such as agricultural commodities not eligible for a license exception; insecticides; pesticides; and herbicides).
  • Civil aviation safety. BIS will generally approve license applications for exports and reexports of items necessary to ensure the safety of civil aviation and the safe operation of commercial aircraft engaged in international air transportation, including the export or reexport of such aircraft leased to state-owned enterprises.
  • Meeting the needs of the Cuban people. BIS is creating a case-by-case licensing policy that will apply to exports and reexports of items to meet the needs of the Cuban people, including exports and reexports for such purposes made to state-owned enterprises and agencies and organizations of the Cuban government that provide goods and services to the Cuban people.
    • Examples of exports and reexports eligible for this licensing policy are items for:  agricultural production; artistic endeavors (including the creation of public content, historic and cultural works and preservation); education; food processing; disaster preparedness, relief and response; public health and sanitation; residential construction and renovation; public transportation; and the construction of infrastructure that directly benefits the Cuban people (e.g., facilities for treating public water supplies and supplying energy to the general public).
  • A general policy of denial will still apply to exports and reexports of items for use by state-owned enterprises, agencies, or other organizations of the Cuban government that primarily generate revenue for the state, including those in the tourism industry and those engaged in the extraction or production of minerals or other raw materials. Additionally, applications to export or reexport items destined to the Cuban military, police, intelligence and security services remain subject to a general policy of denial.

Air Carrier Services
Additional amendment to facilitate carrier service by air and with Cuban airlines.

  • The entry into blocked space, code-sharing, and leasing arrangements to facilitate the provision of carrier services by air, including the entry into such arrangements with a national of Cuba, will be authorized.

Travel
Expanding authorizations within existing travel categories to facilitate travel to Cuba for additional purposes.

  • Temporary Sojourn. Certain personnel who are operating or servicing vessels or aircraft will be authorized to engage in travel-related and other transactions in Cuba to facilitate the temporary sojourn of aircraft and vessels as authorized by the Department of Commerce in connection with the transportation of authorized travelers between the United States and Cuba.
  • Information and informational materials. OFAC will authorize travel-related and other transactions directly incident to professional media or artistic productions of information or informational materials for exportation, importation, or transmission, including the filming or production of media programs (such as movies and television programs); music recordings; and the creation of artworks in Cuba by persons that are regularly employed in or have demonstrated professional experience in a field relevant to such professional media or artistic productions.  OFAC will also be expanding an existing general license to authorize transactions relating to the creation, dissemination, or artistic or other substantive alteration or enhancement of informational materials, including employment of Cuban nationals and the remittance of royalties or other payments.
  • Professional meetings. OFAC will authorize by general license travel-related and other transactions to organize professional meetings or conferences in Cuba.  The existing general license authorizes only attendance at such meetings or conferences.
  • Public performances, clinics, workshops, athletic, and other competitions and exhibitions. Similar to the change to the professional meetings category, OFAC will authorize by general license travel-related and other transactions to organize amateur and semi-professional international sports federation competitions and public performances, clinics, workshops, other athletic or non-athletic competitions, and exhibitions in Cuba.  OFAC also will remove requirements that that U.S. profits from certain events must be donated to certain organizations and that certain events be run at least in part by U.S. travelers.
  • Humanitarian projects. OFAC will expand the list of authorized humanitarian projects to include disaster preparedness and response.


8 thoughts on “US Relaxes More Aspects of its Embargo on Cuba

  • I am not sure I totally agree with or understand John’s points. The fact of the matter is that there is free education in the USA, at least through high school. There are also many social/welfare programs in the USA to assist the needy.

    I myself, come from very humble beginnings. My Mom was a seamstress. My dad was factory worker. My brother, my sister and I went to a public school and public universities. We all have been very successful. My brother is an architect, My sister just retired as a surgeon and I own two businesses.

    The USA is a country of opportunity. One can achieve whatever one works hard at. If I were in Cuba, I would probably be driving a Coco taxi and hustling to make a little more money.

    There is NO question that when the Castros are gone there will be some pain, for a society that has had two to three generations where all the basics have been provided to them, but they’ve have lost their freedom and they’ve had opportunities.

    It is not easy to over throw a police state that monitors the actions of their citizens. A state where one is afraid to criticize, to complain or to demonstrate. A state where people do not have access to information and the internet.

    I assure you that the Castro brothers, nor their families, live the same, impoverish lifestyle that their citizens do. Want proof? Just go to YouTube and check out Fidel’s home and lifestyle.

    The bottom line is that the Castros are NO different than any other dictator.

    Cuba is a country rich in resources and a country with very talented people. Just imagine where Cuba would be today if they had a truly democratic country.

  • The embargo failed to provoke the Cuban people to overthrow the Castros. On this point, I will agree with you. But I also believe that the embargo helped to contain the Castros plan to spread socialism throughout Latin America to a greater extent than they were able to do. Can you imagine what the region would look like with more than one Venezuela?

  • 500,000 Iraqi children? Jeez, John, what a ridiculous thing to say.

  • I tend to agree with you Lou. I am adamantly opposed to the embargo. It is a political issue in the US with Florida and NewJersey, two large electoral states, having a major impact on this. That’s the way it is but there seems to be movement that could in fact end this.

  • Lou B,
    Cuba is a state capitalist economy.
    It is with that totalitarian form that you have a justifiable complaint.
    Communism is a FUTURE government-less, direct democratic society.
    . It has never existed because it must follow a democratization of the society of both the economy and government under socialism which , likewise has never existed since there has never been a democratic economy: one run from the bottom by the workers in a strictly one-man one -vote , democratic majority fashion .
    You are totally correct IMO in saying that the U.S embargo has succeeded in its purpose of immiserating the entire people . What it failed to do was cause the people of Cuba to blame their own government and overthrow it . The Cuban people are not that stupid.
    So the embargo will be continued by the same sort of inhumane bastards who killed 500,000 Iraqi children during the 10-year embargo against that country in the 1990s and said “It was worth it. ”
    Enforcing capitalism is not a church picnic.
    If you think the Cuban people are slaves under their present state capitalism you should try to remember that it could only be worse under free enterprise capitalism where you would not have education, housing, employment , medical, dental, mental health care that is provided by the state and still be just as poor in a developing agrarian country like Cuba.

  • Being of Cuban descent, I can tell you that the Cuban embargo has been a disaster. Not only for the people of Cuba, who earn less that $20 per month, but this policy has prolonged the regime’s life. History has already demonstrated that a free market not only improves the quality of life but dismantles the fabric of communism. Just look at what happened in China, Russia and the other Eastern European countries that use to be part of the Soviet block. Communism may be an appealing ideology to some, but it robes people of their ambition and it certainly does not encourage innovation. In Cuba the people are slaves of the state.

  • Obama is clearly doing everything he can with executive actions, short of lifting actual embargo, which he needs Congress for. Of course, everything can be undone by the next President. I recommend visiting Cuba now. Here’s how to do it legally http://bit.ly/1Ups9v9

  • If you are going to Cuba make sure you have your room booked before you buy your air fare. The major cities in Cuba are very busy with tourists.

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