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Cuba Is a Problem That Trump Is Making Worse
The administration’s new sanctions are likely to backfire.
April 22, 2019
President Trump and his officials have taken steps lately to make things harder for Cuba, aiming to persuade its government to stop helping Venezuela’s embattled tyrant, Nicolas Maduro. That’s a worthy goal, and Cuba’s material support for Maduro is certainly objectionable, but this is the wrong way to get results.
The administration just that U.S. citizens will be able to sue foreigners for transactions involving property that Cuba’s government confiscated after the 1959 revolution. This legal recourse was made available by the Helms-Burton Act in 1996 — but was then frozen, for good reasons, by successive administrations. Tougher restrictions on travel and remittances will also come into force. These new moves follow previous bans on commerce with businesses owned by the Cuban military and security services; restrictions on individual travel to Cuba; a of Major League Baseball’s deal with Cuban authorities to hire Cuban players without obliging them to defect; and the shrinking of the embassy in Havana to a skeleton staff.
This economic and diplomatic assault will, as intended, inflict real damage on Cuba — but if history is any guide, that’s to make the country’s rulers budge. Instead, opening the floodgates for litigation against Canadian and European companies doing business in Cuba will fracture the international front against Maduro — not to mention swamping U.S. courts with troublesome lawsuits. Since 1964, the U.S. Foreign Claims Settlement Commission has nearly 6,000 claims valued (with interest) at $8 billion. The State Department apparently thinks there could be as many as still-uncertified claims.
A full resumption of normal ties between the U.S. and Cuba should indeed require the victims of expropriation to be compensated. A process that could have yielded this result was underway thanks to the warming of relations under President Obama, including the restoring of diplomatic ties in 2015. The Trump administration’s plan is much less promising.
Canada and the European Union — the biggest foreign investor in Cuba — have they are “determined to work together to protect the interests of our companies” at the World Trade Organization and through counter-claims against any U.S. lawsuits. There’s already disagreement about how much pressure to apply to Maduro, and the litigation initiative — more an attack on America’s friends than on Cuba or Venezuela — will widen that rift.
The Trump administration came into office betting that Cuba’s government would buckle under pressure, but Havana has withstood much worse than this: the U.S. embargo, for one, and the devastating from 1989 to 1994 thanks to the collapse of Cuba’s Soviet patron. Aside from dividing what could have been a U.S.-led coalition, the new escalation will play into the hands of aging hardliners, encourage Cuba to seek help from Russia and China, and weaken potent internal forces for change.
The previous rapprochement between the U.S. and Cuba wasn’t fruitless: It encouraged some economic reforms and greater cooperation in counter-narcotics, environmental protection and other areas. Granted, it didn’t end the regime’s or its support for other tyrannies, notably North Korea and Venezuela. But the Trump’s administration’s new course is unlikely to fare as well.
Engagement is no panacea. have their place. But Cuba should be confronted with the broadest possible front of critics and opponents. The Trump administration has just made that harder.
To contact the senior editor responsible for Bloomberg Opinion’s editorials: David Shipley at .
CUBA STUDY GROUP STATEMENT ON NEW CUBA SANCTIONS
April 22, 2019
WASHINGTON D.C. � The Cuba Study Group believes the new restrrictions on travel and remittances announced by the United States against Cuba last week are unwise and counterproductive. They will severely hurt the Cuban people and all sectors of civil society on the island, including dissidents and the growing private sector. While the declared intent of the measures is to improve prospects for democracy, they are likely to have the very opposite effect.
Some believe the Cuban government’s support for the Venezuelan government merits these sanctions. But they hark back to the same isolationist approach that has proven ineffective for six decades. Ultimately, changes in Cuba must come from within the island. Civil society is an indispensable catalyst to any such change, and independent actors of all kinds in Cuban society benefit directly from the access to information and resources provided by engagement with the United States.
Specifically, these new measures will weaken the Cuban people �� disproportionately compared to their limited impact on the Cuban government � in the following ways:
- Remittance restrictions will hurt families and independent civil society actors in Cuba, such as dissidents, journalists, religious groups, academics, and others.
- Remittance restrictions will be particularly damaging to capital formation in the private sector, as they will disrupt much of its supply chain and will all but ruin many self-employed Cubans. This sector is already struggling from the recent elimination of multi-entry visas that allowed Cubans to travel to the United States to secure much-needed resources for their homes, businesses and projects.
- Travel restrictions will further isolate the Cuban people from the United States and will prevent U.S. travelers, the best ambassadors of American values, from direct engagement with ordinary Cubans.
- Reduced U.S. travel will also have a negative impact on private sector businesses that directly cater to these visitors.
In the aggregate, these measures stand to further isolate the United States and weaken the potential for international cooperation on its policy toward Cuba and Venezuela. This is particularly worrisome at a time when Russia and China are expanding their influence in the region.
While we disagree with this approach, we understand and share some of the emotions driving support for it among many in the Cuban-American community. In the four years since the United States and Cuba normalized diplomatic relations, the government in Havana has done too little to foster a more inclusive environment for the diaspora to integrate itself into Cuban society. The slow pace of internal reform and tighter controls on the private sector have also bred frustration, galvanizing those who support the failed U.S. policy strategies of old.
The Cuban government must understand that taming these impulses requires creating legal frameworks for Cubans abroad and at home to more actively contribute to the island’s future. The Cuban diaspora today is filled with individuals who support friends, family, and businesses on the island. But Cuban policies continue to restrict such partnerships, leaving many opportunities untapped. Cuban civil society actors, in turn, routinely make proposals that go unheard, while domestic entrepreneurs have ambitions that, under current regulatory limitations, remain impossible to fulfill.
There is much that Cubans on the island and around the world can give, whether via investing in private and mixed enterprises, transferring knowledge across industries, volunteering time and resources for humanitarian projects, or voting in national elections. The longer Cuban officials take to formalize and welcome such changes, the longer the island’s future will remain at the mercy of American political forces beyond anyone’s control.
The Cuba Study Group is a non-profit, non-partisan
organization, comprised of business and professional individuals with a deeply
rooted love for Cuba and the Cuban people. We aim to put our collective
experience in leadership skills, problem solving, and wealth creation at the
service of the Cuban people. We aim to facilitate change, help empower
individuals and promote civil society development.
is to help facilitate peaceful change in Cuba leading to a free and open
society, respect for human rights and the rule of law, a productive,
market-based economy and the reunification of the Cuban nation.
April 17, 2019
Engage Cuba Statement on New Cuba Sanctions
“President Trump is doing this for one reason, and one reason only: to appease fringe hardliners in South Florida ahead of the 2020 election. The only way to get property claimants what they deserve is through diplomatic negotiations, which President Trump just threw off the table,” said James Williams, President of Engage Cuba. “This lets the Cuban government off the hook and shifts the burden to American, European and Canadian companies. American companies and our closest allies will now be paying instead of the Cuban government.”
“The hypocrisy of the Trump administration cozying up to the most brutal dictatorships in the world in Saudi Arabia, Russia and North Korea, but claiming to care about democracy and human rights in Cuba, is like living in a parallel universe. President Trump himself tried for years to open up a Trump Hotel and golf resort in Cuba.”
“U.S. travel and remittances are the lifeblood of the private sector entrepreneurs in Cuba. These restrictions are a cruel betrayal and a knife in the back of Cuban civil society and the prospects for a growing independent private sector in Cuba. The Cuban people are already struggling under tremendous difficulties, and these actions only make it worse. We need a policy that focuses on empowering the Cuban people and advancing American interests, not continuing a 60-year failed policy that only serves fringe domestic politics in South Florida.”
Full statement: https://www.engagecuba.org/press-releases/2019/4/17/engage-cuba-statement-on-new-cuba-sanctions
Cuba Policy & Regulation Change Announcements
April 17, 2019
· On April 17th, the Trump administration announced policy changes primarily remittances, allowing US entities to take legal action against foreign investors in Cuba, as well as other more technical changes.
· Reports by the Miami Herald and other papers are stating that the Administration also intends to limit travel to Cuba to family visits, “thereby restricting so called veiled tourism”. However, the sources quoted regarding this policy are anonymous and there is no clear indication what is meant by “restricting tourism”.
· At this moment, Holbrook does not have any clear information regarding the 12 categories of licensed travel to Cuba including Educational travel for students, People to People, and Support for the Cuban people, and other categories.
· Travel to Cuba is managed from the Dept of Treasury / the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC). OFAC regulation changes are usually published months after announcements are made. And the last Trump administration changes to the OFAC regulations governing travel to Cuba allowed any planned trips to continue in order not to have undue economic burdens such as cancellations fees, etc..
· Past regulations changes (Nov 2017) were reported as being big changes in regulation, when in fact, the changes were subtle. For example, for people to people travel the new regulations modified “self-directed” visits by moving them to the category "Support for the Cuban People" and requiring use of a bed and breakfast rather than a state owned hotel. People to people through guided group tours like Holbrooke organizes were unchanged.
· We do not feel that any booked groups or proposals under discussion should be altered at this time. We need to wait and see how this unfolds. Nor should this inhibit future plans for travel under the 12 categories since there is no risk associated with planning and yet having a contingency.
· Holbrook will remain in contact with CREST (the Center for Responsible Travel) and other travel industry groups involved in Cuba to learn what we can as quickly as possible and share that information with you.
· Holbrook will also be contacting representatives and organizing with industry groups to register our opposition to this change on the basis of our strong belief that engagement with Cuba and the Cuban people is the right path for our countries. We believe US citizens should be allowed to travel freely to Cuba as we do globally.
· We are concerned for our colleagues and friends in Cuba; we know the importance of the tourism income for the country and its people. The cherished guides, drivers, operations staff, naturalists, artists, scientists, conservation staff, casa particular and paladar owners, many more could be directly impacted by this during what is already a difficult time.
RESPECT: Responsible & Ethical Cuba Travel: An Association of U.S. Travelers to Cuba
April 19, 2019
RESPECT Statement on New Trump Cuba Policy
National Security Advisor John Boltonâ€™s statement on new policy guidelines for Cuba is a continuum of historical efforts to maintain the Monroe Doctrine of 1823 and disrupt and undermine an independent country. The campaign against Cuba dates back to the Cuban Revolution of 1959 and has continued fairly unabated with a United States blockade in place despite the condemnation of this blockade by the overwhelming majority of countries in the United Nations General Assembly, as well as the majority of the American people.
Beginning in 2012 and culminating with the meeting of Presidents Barack Obama and Raul Castro in December of 2014, the United States and Cuba made positive steps towards normalizing diplomatic relations, respecting the territorial integrity of each country and allowing more freedom to travel for citizens of both the United States and Cuba.
Since the election in 2016, the Trump Administration has been unraveling and reversing this tremendous progress by employing a new policy of scare tactics and misinformation campaigns.
These new efforts to strengthen the illegal Helms-Burton Act and limit family remittances are mired in the Cold War thinking and policy that are violations of the civil and human rights of American and Cuban citizens. The use of the anniversary of the failed and notorious Bay of Pigs invasion of 1961 for the delivery of these regulations clearly defines a policy towards Cuba that is lost in the Cold War of more than 60 years ago. It is a further irony that the Administration chose to announce this new policy on the same week that the report has been partially released outlining the efforts of a foreign country to meddle and to violate in the sovereignty of the United States.
The RESPECT founding charter of 2016 dedicates non-profit entities, travel agents, tour operators and other travel service providers to promoting ethical and socially responsible travel to Cuba. We understand that our relations with Cuba are framed in developing mutual understanding and learning through first hand experiences. We are committed to the right of all US citizens and residents to travel to Cuba and we strongly advocate for the lifting of all US governmental travel restrictions to the island.
Cruise Lines Have Yet to Alter or Cancel Any Cruises to Cuba
From New York Times
Emilio Morales, who studies the Cuban economy closely for his firm, the Havana Consulting Group, said the cutback in remittances to Cuba would have virtually no effect, because the average monthly remittance to Cuba is $200 to $220.
Limiting nonfamily travel, however, will seriously hurt the tourism sector on the island, he said.
“The Obama era is over,” he said. “It’s all over.”
Still, the details of the travel restriction were not clear. There are up to a dozen categories of such travel, and the administration did not say whether they would be prohibited.
“I have spent the day on the telephone with current and former State and executive branch officials and industry and policy experts, and nobody knows what the actual restrictions are,” said Collin Laverty, president of Cuba Educational Travel, which organizes cultural and university trips to Cuba.
From Conde Nast Travel
At the time of writing, there was nothing about the policy change on the Department of the Treasury’s website, and no new travel warnings, advisories, or notes on Cuba’s page on the State Department website.
I’ve got a trip coming up. Do I need to cancel?
No. Reach out to your tour company with any questions, and expect your trip to go ahead as scheduled—for the time being.
"For now, travelers should stay calm and keep an eye out for more news about what the actual changes will be," says Collin Laverty, president of Cuba Educational Travel. "Yesterday’s announcement was very general and did not include any details about what changes will be implemented and what the process and timeline will be. This appears to be part of the administration’s overall Cuba strategy of causing fear and confusion amongst would-be travelers, traders, and investors. Until the Treasury Department issues new regulations in writing, it’s business as usual."
Tom Popper, president of insightCuba, which has navigated U.S.-Cuba travel restrictions during four U.S. presidencies, agrees. “[For] travelers wanting to book travel to Cuba or those already scheduled for travel, the announcement provides no change,” he says. "People continue to book trips at insightCuba and numerous other companies, and all existing trips remain as scheduled. As always, travelers should be aware that the U.S. travel regulations have been in place since 1963. This is despite President Obama’s loosening of the restrictions in 2015. What this means is travelers should be aware of the 12 categories of permissible travel to Cuba and understand their options.”
After the announcements, Emily Mendrala, the executive director of the Center for Democracy in the Americas, released a statement saying the Trump administration is "doubling down on isolation and, in so doing, causing great pain to the people of Cuba" and U.S. businesses.
CET Statement on President Trump's Cuba Policy Changes
MIAMI, FL -- Today the Trump Administration announced new measures to restrict travel to and trade with Cuba in an effort to reinforce a policy that has failed miserably for 60 years to accomplish anything positive in Cuba. He also took a shot at Cuban families putting limits on the amount of money Cuban-Americans can send to support their Cuban family members. A businessman that has explored opportunities to invest in Cuba and sent his company representatives to open channels to start businesses, the President is surrounded by advisors stuck in the past and overcome by ideology and misguided intentions.
“It is sad to see the Cuban and American people suffer because the President has outsourced his policy to South Florida lawmakers,” said Collin Laverty, President of Cuba Educational Travel. “These changes will set back US interests on the island for years and harm US businesses, US travelers and millions of families living on the island.”
National Security Advisor John Bolton announced that the US will limit non-family travel, place limits on remittances to $1000 per quarter, end U-turn transactions and fully implement Title III. Changes made by the Obama Administration helped the growing private sector on the island, led to improvements in connectivity in Cuba and brought families together through travel, an upgraded remittance policy and a focus on reconciliation. The new changes will have the opposite effect, slowing down growth of entrepreneurs, complicating business deals and taking money out of the pockets of Cubans and Americans doing business there.
“It is a sad day for Cuba and a sad day for America. The only winners here are a handful of members of Congress and those stuck in the past that support them,” added Laverty. “The losers are millions of Cubans on and off the island and the overwhelming majority of Americans that support engagement with Cuba. The hypocrisy and counterproductive nature of the approach is disturbing.”
"Travel to Cuba and engaging culturally and economically remains the best way to support the Cuban people -- it's time for the US to get out of the way to allow the Cuban people to determine their own future."