US President Donald Trump has pushed through his hardline policy agenda against Cuba, literally reversing his predecessor Barack Obama’s rapprochement as threatened in June.
The tightening of sanctions against Cuba took effect on Thursday following the publication of the new regulations in the Federal Register, which authoritises the Departments of Treasury, Commerce and State to implement changes to the Cuba sanctions rules.
According to the US Department of State, “although economic sanctions remain in place, the United States is one of Cuba’s primary suppliers of food and agricultural products, with exports of those goods valued at US $247 million in 2016. The United States is also a significant supplier of humanitarian goods to Cuba, including medicines and medical products. Remittances from the United States, estimated at US $3 billion for 2016, play an important role in Cuba’s state-controlled economy… Cuba has an active foreign policy and aims to diversify its trade, aid, foreign investment, and political support. Cuba and the United States belong to a number of the same international organizations, including the United Nations and the World Trade Organization, but usually take opposing positions on international issues.”
Since the triumph of the Cuban Revolution led by Fidel Castro in 1959, successive US administrations have tried to force a regime change to no avail.
Cuba says US-unilateral but extraterritorially pursued blockade has caused economic damages amounting to US $822,280,000,000.
But under typical diplomatic tone the US Department of State describes US-Cuba relations such that, “The United States seeks a stable, prosperous, and free country for the Cuban people. US engagement with Cuba advances the interests of the United States and empowers the Cuban people, while restricting economic practices that disproportionately benefit the Cuban government or its military, intelligence, or security agencies at the expense of the Cuban people. The US government encourages the development of telecommunications and the Internet in Cuba, supports the growth of Cuba’s nascent private sector, and engages in areas that advance the interests of the United States and Cuban people. The United States is committed to supporting safe, orderly, and legal migration from Cuba through the effective implementation of the 1994-95 US-Cuba Migration Accords and the 2017 Joint Statement.”
In June, President Trump said Obama’s deal with Cuba was a bad deal.
On Wednesday, the US Department of Treasury announced revised policy measures that have thrown away Obama’s diplomacy policy. President Trump has readopted the mighty Washington sanctions route whilst painting a picture that he was supporting Cuban citizens via such measures.
“Today [Wednesday], the Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) and the Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) are announcing amendments to the Cuban Assets Control Regulations (CACR) and Export Administration Regulations (EAR), respectively, to implement changes to the Cuba sanctions programme announced by the President in June. The State Department is taking complementary steps to implement these policy changes that cumulatively seek to channel economic activities away from the Cuban military, intelligence, and security services, while maintaining opportunities for Americans to engage in authorized travel to Cuba and support the private, small business sector in Cuba. The changes will take effect on Thursday, November 9, 2017, when the regulations are published in the Federal Register,” stated Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. “We have strengthened our Cuba policies to channel economic activity away from the Cuban military and to encourage the government to move toward greater political and economic freedom for the Cuban people.”
Under the President Trump’s National Security Presidential Memorandum (NSPM) – financial transactions – “the State Department is publishing a list of entities and subentities that are under the control of, or act for or on behalf of, the Cuban military, intelligence, or security services or personnel and with which direct financial transactions would disproportionately benefit the Cuban military, intelligence, or security services or personnel at the expense of the Cuban people or private enterprise in Cuba.”
The memorandum stated that persons subject to US jurisdiction would now be prohibited from engaging in certain direct financial transactions with entities and sub-entities identified by the State Department on the Cuba Restricted List.
However, it also stated that certain transactions would be excluded from the prohibition pursuant to exceptions detailed in the NSPM.
“Consistent with the administration’s interest in avoiding negative impacts on American businesses and travelers, commercial engagements in place prior to the State Department’s listing of any entity or sub-entity will continue to be authorized, as will most previously arranged travel,” reads the new policy.
On trade and commerce, the BIS was establishing a general policy of denial for license applications to export items for use by entities and sub-entities on the Cuba Restricted List unless the transaction was otherwise consistent with the NSPM.
“Consistent with the administration’s policy to support free enterprise in Cuba, BIS is simplifying and expanding its license exception that authorizes certain license-free exports to the Cuban private sector,” President Trump’s policy dossier stresses.
On people-to travel, OFAC is requiring that all people-to-people non-academic educational travel be conducted under the auspices of an organization that was subject to US jurisdiction and sponsored such exchanges to promote people-to-people contact. Secondly, the OFAC insisted such travelers be accompanied by a person subject to US jurisdiction who was a representative of the sponsoring organization.
Travel to Cuba for tourist activities remains prohibited, and US federal regulations restrict travel to Cuba to licensed travelers engaged in certain specified activities. Anyone physically present in the United States, regardless of citizenship and nationality, must comply with these regulations.
“Individual people-to-people non-academic educational travel will no longer be authorized as announced by the President,” according to the new measures. “Consistent with the administration’s interest in avoiding negative impacts on Americans for arranging lawful travel to Cuba, certain people-to-people travel that previously was authorized will continue to be authorized where the traveler had already completed at least one travel-related transaction (such as purchasing a flight or reserving accommodation) prior to the President’s June 16, 2017 announcement.”
On the reverse side, President Trump has removed almost all US diplomats from Havana, and Washington now demands that Cubans seeking American visas must to travel to Colombia to apply and attend interviews as scheduled.