Thursday, April 18, 2019

FRD Posts on Bolton

FRD Post of 4/18/19

Can anyone provide further updates and interpretation about the meaning and implementation of John Bolton's speech yesterday?

Karen DeYoung wrote in the Washington Post

"Bolton said that Cuban Americans would be limited to sending $1,000 every three months to relatives on the island, reversing the Obama-era removal of restrictions on remittances, but he provided no details on what he said were new limits on U.S. citizens’ travel there. A Treasury Department official said regulations would be issued “in the coming months.”

That suggests we have time to continue with our current plans for organizing travel and to build opposition.  While nothing can be guaranteed, in previous instances of policy change during the Trump Administration, the Treasury Department has honored the validity of existing contracts and commitments.

Can we speculate from the fact that Secretary of State Pompeo said nothing about remittances and travel that this is a Bolton / Claver-Carone initiative that may not be fully supported by the State Department or even Treasury / OFAC , the agencies that will bear the substantial burden of recreating a restrictive system.  The language of Bolton, "the Department of the Treasury will implement further regulatory changes to restrict non-family travel to Cuba, or in other words, 'veiled tourism'" was persistent attack language on people to people travel by Claver-Carone as a former lobbyist for the hardest liners.  I suspect other categories of purposeful travel and the general license system will be part of the bureaucratic battle to come.

Because I am sending out a newsletter tomorrow morning, I am creating a simple petition.  It is the least effective way of marshalling opinion but provides a way to respond and mobilize opposition.

Please suggest any changes in this draft which will make it more useful to you.  I have mixed feelings about including Title III because I assume that will be more of a diplomatic battleground.  Do we think the issue has any resonance with Cuba travelers and Congress?

As Americans who have traveled to Cuba for people to people, academic and professional exchanges and other purposeful reasons, we call upon our Representatives and Senators to resist the initiative from extremists in the National Security Council to return to a failed policy of US government restrictions on remittances and travel.

Our experience in Cuba increased our knowledge of that country's culture, history and life today and provided opportunities for us to inform Cubans about the US.   Whether we traveled independently, in tour groups or on a cruise, we contributed to improving the economic well being of Cubans.  Our presence also fostered mutual understanding and encouraged a positive natural evolution of bilateral relations and domestic reform.  

We ask President Trump, consistent with his personal engagement in the leisure industry and anti-intervention values, to overrule NSC staff.  Candidates challenging his reelection must make clear their opposition to this regressive policy and their views on ending all travel and agricultural restrictions and on repeal of the Helms-Burton embargo law.
Dr. William LeoGrande of American University writes about the radical policy change, in particular the Title III issue here

More on Title III from AFP

But the European Union and Canada, whose vigorous protests helped block the Helms-Burton Act from coming into force two decades ago, swiftly condemned the move.

"The EU and Canada consider the extraterritorial application of unilateral Cuba-related measures contrary to international law," the EU's foreign affairs supremo Federica Mogherini and Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom said in a joint statement with Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland.

In a letter to Pompeo ahead of the announcement that was seen by AFP, Mogherini and Malmstrom warned that the European Union "will be obliged to use all means at its disposal" and warned of action at the World Trade Organization.....

Representative Eliot Engel, the Democrat who heads the House Foreign Affairs Committee, called the decision on Cuba property lawsuits a "self-inflicted wound" that would isolate the United States just as it was working with allies on Venezuela. 

 A personal note:  I will be in Washington April 25-26 and in Havana for the Feria Internacional de Turismo May 6 - 11, if you are interested in meeting.

FRD Post of 4/17/19

The Miami Herald is running a story about John Bolton's speech on April 17 in Miami that says
Travel to Cuba will now be limited to family visits, restricting those deemed as "veiled tourism," said a high-ranking official who spoke on condition of anonymity. 

That could signal the end of cruises, which started to operate during the Obama years because of an expansion of the categories of travel allowed.

The re-tightened restrictions also could impact air travel because of a reduction of passengers. U.S. laws currently allows only 12 categories of travel, among them educational visits, to promote people-to-people contacts and for professional and research work.

Travel by Cuban Americans to reunite with relatives on the island will remain unchanged
Bolton is reported as having said during his speech:
 We are also announcing that the Department of the Treasury will implement further regulatory changes to restrict non-family travel to Cuba, or in other words, "veiled tourism." These new measures will help steer American dollars away from the Cuban regime, or its military and security services, who control the tourism industry in Cuba.

The White House has released similar language:

Notably Secretary of State Pompeo earlier in the day only spoke of ending suspension of Title III, a dumb enough but expected move.  He mentioned not a word about travel.  Does this suggest State has a different perspective than the NSC?

If further reporting confirms a complete roll back of travel, what shall we do about it?  Can Congressional, business and agricultural allies be encouraged to push back to block or minimize regulatory changes?

This story is likely to get lost in the furor over tomorrow's release of the Mueller report and then the Easter and Passover holidays.

Obviously OFAC has to issue new restrictions to turn hard line rhetoric into reality.  While it is possible new rules were already prepared, experience suggests there will be several weeks or more before things change legally.

Have enough people become accustomed to relative freedom to visit Cuba that active resistance is likely?  Will that include broad scale non-compliance?

Responses from Emily Mandrela and Collin Laverty follow.  We will post releases and any other public comments  below.   Please send whatever you put out to, or enter text directly into the comments section of this page. 

      --John McAuliff

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