Thursday, November 9, 2017

New Regs and a New License for Independent Travel

Comment on Misinterpretation of New Regulations


This Miami Herald article misstates the revised character of the general license for travel to support the Cuban people. In its previous form, it was the license for undertaking anti-state activity. In effect it has become the replacement for the individual general license for people to people travel.

From the Treasury Department press release:
"In accordance with the NSPM, OFAC is requiring that each traveler under this travel category engage in a full-time schedule of activities that result in meaningful interaction with individuals in Cuba. Such activities must also enhance contact with the Cuban people.... Renting a room in a private Cuban residence (casa particular), eating at privately owned Cuban restaurants (paladares), and shopping at privately owned stores run by self-employed Cubans (cuentapropistas) are examples of authorized activities; however, in order to meet the requirement of a full-time schedule, a traveler must engage in additional authorized Support for the Cuban People activities. ", i.e. meaningful interaction, enhanced contact.
The intrusive activities that I have deleted from the above for clarity are "or" alternatives, "support civil society in Cuba, or promote the Cuban people's independence from Cuban authorities." Similar language appeared in the old individual general license, written originally to get Sen. Rubio to lift a confirmation block.

John McAuliff
Fund for Reconciliation and Development



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Press Release


New Cuba Regulations Protect Independent Travelers

Individual visits still easy under revised category

Americans who want to freely travel to Cuba independent of groups and at lower cost have not been affected by new regulations issued on November 9th by the Treasury Department.

The individual general license for people to people travel has been abolished, but equal if not more freedom is now available through a revised category of Support for the Cuban People.

The only limit it imposes is that the travelers must stay in a private bed and breakfast (casa particular) instead of a government owned hotel.  They must "engage in a full-time schedule of activities that result in meaningful interaction with individuals in Cuba. Such activities must also enhance contact with the Cuban people".  

This undiminished opportunity for independent visitors will be good news to US airlines Jet Blue, American, Delta, United and South West as well as AirBnB. The fast growing Cuban private sector that benefits includes owners of bed and breakfasts, restaurants, taxis and support businesses.

The only practical consequence of the new regulations for American visitors on group tours is that they are not supposed to use hotels, bars and stores in Old Havana owned by Habaguanex, including Ernest Hemingway's former hotel home, Ambos Mundos.  This is because the Habaguanex company last year was taken away from the Office of the Historian by GAESA, a military linked holding company.  Should it be restored to the Historians' Office, the hotels will become accessible to Americans again.

A different psychological obstacle to US visitors is the Travel Warning that was issued in September when the US withdrew 60% of the staff from its embassy in Havana.  The warning was a bureaucratic requirement of the drawdown and the reduced ability of the embassy to provide routine citizen services, but had no substantive justification.  The Travel Warning also had no legal force, but created a negative atmosphere for new visitors and affected some institutional insurance, presumably as an unintended consequence. 

Significantly Senator Rubio and his hard line colleagues in Miami are not happy with the new regulations.   Have they explained to constituents yet that their pressure on the State Department led to withdrawal of US consular staff from Havana so grandma and grandpa are not going to be able to get visas to celebrate Christmas and New Years with them in Miami? 

Official text describing Support for the Cuban People, and links to US government documents can be found below.


The Fund for Reconciliation and Development is a non-governmental organization founded in 1985 to support normal US relations with Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia.  For the past twenty years it has undertaken projects seeking the same with Cuba.  Our next program is a performance tour by Irish and Irish American traditional musicians to Holguin and Santiago, November 11 to 18.



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Official descriptions of Support for the Cuban People

Frequently Asked Questions

20. What constitutes “support for the Cuban people” for generally authorized travel and other transactions? This general license authorizes, subject to conditions, travel-related transactions and other transactions that are intended to provide support for the Cuban people, which include activities of recognized human rights organizations; independent organizations designed to promote a rapid, peaceful transition to democracy; and individuals and non-governmental organizations that promote independent activity intended to strengthen civil society in Cuba. In accordance with the NSPM, OFAC is amending this general license to require that each traveler utilizing this authorization engage in a full-time schedule of activities that enhance contact with the Cuban people, support civil society in Cuba, or promote the Cuban people’s independence from Cuban authorities and that result in meaningful interactions with individuals in Cuba. OFAC is also amending this general license to exclude from the authorization certain direct financial transactions with entities and subentities identified on the State Department’s Cuba Restricted List. The traveler’s schedule of activities must not include free time or recreation in excess of that consistent with a full-time schedule in Cuba. For a complete description of what this general license authorizes and the restrictions that apply, see 31 CFR § 515.574. 


New Regulations

§ 515.574 Support for the Cuban people.

(a) * * *
Each traveler engages in a full-time schedule of activities that:
Enhance contact with the Cuban people, support civil society in Cuba, or promote the Cuban people’s independence from Cuban authorities; and
Result in meaningful interaction with individuals in Cuba.
* * * * *

Note 2 to paragraph (a):
Staying in a room at a rented accommodation in a private Cuban residence (casa particular), eating at privately-owned Cuban restaurants (paladares), and shopping at privately-owned stores run by self-employed Cubans (cuentapropista) are examples of activities that qualify for this general license. However, in order to meet the requirement for a full-time schedule, a traveler must engage in additional authorized Support for the Cuban People activities.


Treasury Dept Press Release


Support for the Cuban People Travel
In accordance with the NSPM, OFAC is requiring that each traveler under this travel category engage in a full-time schedule of activities that result in meaningful interaction with individuals in Cuba. Such activities must also enhance contact with the Cuban people, support civil society in Cuba, or promote the Cuban people's independence from Cuban authorities. Renting a room in a private Cuban residence (casa particular), eating at privately owned Cuban restaurants (paladares), and shopping at privately owned stores run by self-employed Cubans (cuentapropistas) are examples of authorized activities; however, in order to meet the requirement of a full-time schedule, a traveler must engage in additional authorized Support for the Cuban People activities.


Complete US government documents

New Regulations

https://www.treasury.gov/resource-center/sanctions/Programs/Documents/cacr_11082017.pdf


Frequently Asked Questions

https://www.treasury.gov/resource-center/sanctions/Programs/Documents/cuba_faqs_new.pdf


Treasury Department Fact Sheet

https://www.treasury.gov/resource-center/sanctions/Programs/Documents/cuba_fact_sheet_11082017.pdf

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