US to Enforce New Limits on Remittances to Cuba

The changes will take effect on October 9.

Havana storefront. Photo: Juan Suarez

By Nora Gamez Torres, El Nuevo Herald / dpa

HAVANA TIMES – Cuban-Americans won’t be able to send more than US $1,000 to their relatives in Cuba in three consecutive months, according to new regulations published on Friday, the latest in a broad attempt by the Trump administration to increase pressure on the Cuban government for its violations of human rights and its support for Nicolas Maduro in Venezuela.

The Treasury Department is also eliminating donation remittances, a category that allowed Americans to send money to friends or organizations in Cuba. However, the administration will allow payments to non-governmental organizations and individuals in the private sector to promote their development “independent of government control.”

“Remittances to private businesses, human rights groups, religious organizations, and self-employed individuals operating in the non-state sector are authorized with no cap at this time,” the State Department said in a statement.

Remittances to senior government and Communist Party officials remain prohibited, but Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control, or OFAC, extended the ban to their close relatives, including children, parents, grandparents, uncles and first cousins.

OFAC also prohibited US banks from processing Cuba-related transactions through third parties – known as U-turn transactions. In practice, most banks already reject those operations for fear of breaching the regulations of the Cuban embargo.

The changes will take effect on October 9th.

“We are taking additional steps to financially isolate the Cuban regime. The United States holds the Cuban regime accountable for its oppression of the Cuban people and support of other dictatorships throughout the region, such as the illegitimate Maduro regime,” said Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. “Through these regulatory amendments, Treasury is denying Cuba access to hard currency, and we are curbing the Cuban government’s bad behavior while continuing to support the long-suffering people of Cuba.”

The administration has ramped up sanctions on the Cuban government in the hope it will withdraw its support for Maduro. The U.S. does not recognize him as the legitimate president of Venezuela and instead supports the leader of the National Assembly, Juan Guaido.

Remittance restrictions were announced in April in Miami by National Security Adviser John Bolton. In June, the Trump administration also banned cruises to Cuba as part of the strategy of cutting off the flow of financial resources to the island’s government and reversing Barack Obama’s policy of engagement.

The State Department also sanctioned the heads of the medical missions of the Cuban government abroad. The controversial medical-services program brought more than 6 billion dollars to the Cuban government in 2018.

The Cuban minister of foreign affairs reacted to Friday’s announcement on Twitter.

“I strongly reject the implementation of measures announced in April by the United States aimed at strengthening the blockade and economic siege against Cuba,” Bruno Rodriguez wrote in Spanish. “The opportunistic attempts to divide Cubans will fail.”

U.S. officials drafting Cuba policy have said that the new round of sanctions has been specifically aimed at the government, not the people. But the cruise ban raised criticism for its negative effect among some self-employed Cubans who benefited from those visitors.

In the case of remittances, the administration listened to experts who asked to carve out exceptions for money to be sent to the private sector, as well as non-governmental organizations such as churches.

Projects like Cuba Emprende, a program of the Catholic Church to train entrepreneurs on the island, depends on the remittances sent from the U.S.

According to the new regulations, Americans can send remittances to owners and employees of small businesses such as small restaurants known as “paladares,” bed-and-breakfasts (“casas particulares”), to taxi drivers, independent contractors or consultants, private farmers and those leasing state land for agriculture.

“The policy is similar to the actions against “non-family” travel; Cuban Americans are favored,” wrote long-term Cuban observer, Phil Peters, on Twitter. “This is not a Draconian move; everything remains under general license, and the private sector provisions are good. As always, those determined to evade can and will do so.”

But the measures announced on Friday affect people who depend on remittances sent by friends and acquaintances, and who are not “self-employed.”

“The new limitations on remittances will cause undue harm to Cuban families and those Cubans not fortunate enough to have relatives in the United States,” said Ric Herrero, executive director of the Cuba Study Group. “While we appreciate that exemptions were made for private sector entrepreneurs and certain NGOs, the aggregate impact of these restrictions will be to further punish the most disadvantaged sectors of Cuban society.”

8 thoughts on “US to Enforce New Limits on Remittances to Cuba

  • Hello Kurt.

    Wondering if you can point me in the right direction here. I live in Cuba and I am self-employed but today I am facing issues with the payments through Western Union cause the 1000 limit. Can you tell me if you know about what my employer (American Citizen) should do to clarify my situation? I qualify for the categories a and b here:

    “Section 515.340 of the CACR defines “self-employed individual” to mean a Cuban national who satisfies one or more of the following conditions: (a) is an owner or employee of a small private business or a sole proprietorship, including restaurants (paladares), taxis, and bedand-breakfasts (casas particulares); (b) is an independent contractor or consultant; (c) is a small farmer who owns his or her own land; or (d) is a small usufruct farmer who cultivates stateowned land to sell products on the open market.”

    Do you know other ways to send money from UE to Cuba apart from AIS card and Western Union?

    Best Regards

  • I would simply ask my buddies to help me send my family the money. Easy peezy.

  • I concur with you on this Curt. I simply take money with me as I travel back and forth. I think that another looming problem is that the Castro regime may eventually take action on the dual currency and all those remittances sitting in Cuban banks may be considerably reduced in value. We only convert from international legal money when requiring Cuban currency and in relatively small amounts at a time.

  • Very good response, Enrique. If all expat Cubans like you disregard the foolish restrictions, I won’t worry as much for those on the island who depend on remittances.

  • I’m so sick of this this president and his lunch mob. What they are doing is more harm then good. You are gonna starve a country TV that has suffered for so many years, including my family, I will damed, and will find ways around this, And believe when I say I will get funds to my family one way or another. You can ban travel all together I will still go thru a 3rd country to get goods and money to my family, so f@#k you trump supporter and your goons

  • There are so many ways to get around those new restrictions on remittances . Any Cuban American sending money to their families who obey the new restrictions, either don’t care about their families, or they are scared of their own shadows. Gandhi and later Martin Luther King said that man has a moral obligation to disobey unjust laws.

  • Enrique, well said. The Cuban government will just find other and more ways to tighten the screws on its people–if we shut off one source of money coming into to the island, such as remittances, they’ll just siphon off money from their own people some other way.

    I can understand the idea of the recently published list of hotels and businesses, and umbrella agencies, that are off-limits to US travelers–this in theory may keep some US money out of Cuban Government/GAESA hands. And it does directly force US travelers to support the private sector, small businesses, families, etc.–this is an example of a fairly good, clear decision that does not (yet) seem to have a downside.

    But remittances should be about families sending money to families–and to limit that is like punishing a child for a parent that behaves badly, and hoping the parent gets the message.

    But why do we expect, after 60 years, that suddenly the Cuban government gets that message, and will feel bad for its people, and have a change of heart, and say Oh, you’re right, we should govern differently, you’ve embarrassed us in front of the world, and we didn’t realize how hard our people have it?

    To me, all the measures we are taking now, and have for 60 years, suggest that we believe such a reaction will eventually come–a change of heart at the top. How naive. Of course economic hardship for its people won’t be the reason the Cuban government gives up. That hasn’t worked for 60 years. As they have shown before, they’ll let things get seriously bad for their people. Those at the top will continue to live well, so tightening various economic screws won’t do it.

  • As always.. the US government take steps to restrain the development of Cuba and it’s people , thinking that it will affect the Government. So far from the truth ! Only th pralleople suffers. The bosses and their families keep a high level of luxury in Theis lives. Trip to Europe, boat rides on their weekends and enough food and cristal beer on the table the whole month . Meanwhile ( like Colbert’s favorite segment ) the every day Cuban family struggles to buy a loaf of bread. Cubans will keep their cool because they are well trained to suffer and go about their lives with a minimum an their spirit wil not be broken but.. do not full your self, this new wave of hardship under Trump , specially after Obama offered Cubans some hopes for a decent life , it’s auterly the work & the push of the Cuban right in Florida. They are the only ones benefited by this moves. Their morbo-and-hate filled retoric needs Communist Cuba alive so they can keep their TV chanels (41) alive and their senators ( Marco Rubio) in power … Open your eyes ,you decent CUBAN-US citizen, protest for your right to visit Cuba, to help your family with out restrictions. Cubans on the island can’t Protest with out repression but you can. Show that USA is different from the totalitarian regime of the Castros.

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