Monday, May 23, 2022

Zoom Update on Travel (& More)

Travel to Cuba June 2022 

Biden Changes and the Summit of the Americas


Watch our June 14, 2022 zoom on travel to Cuba on youtube by clicking here.   Share this link with friends and colleagues  https://youtu.be/2PAp774zNSg


An opportunity to receive definitive information about new regulations from the Biden Administration, as well as about how and when they will be implemented.


Learn also from experience to date of tour organizers who have already brought groups to Cuba.


Speakers

William LeoGrande, American University

Robert Muse, attorney

Tom Popper, founder of Insight Cuba

Christopher Baker, guide book author, photographer, expedition leader

Rena Kraut, Cuban American Youth Orchestra

Gina Faustin, Kompa Guide

Linda Elzer, Travel While You Can

Kizzy Camejo Torres, local guide and casa owner, Havana

John McAuliff, Fund for Reconciliation and Development (moderator)


Andrea Holbrook, Holbrook Travel on video, click here


                            Speaker Bios

Christopher P. Baker—the Lowell Thomas Award 2008 'Travel Journalist of the
Year'—has been acclaimed by National Geographic as “One of the world’s
leading authorities on Cuba travel and culture.” His eight books on Cuba
include 'Cuba Classics: A Celebration of Vintage American Automobiles,' the
'Moon Cuba' and 'National Geographic Traveler Cuba' guidebooks, plus 'Mi
Moto Fidel: Motorcycling Through Castro's Cuba' (a two-time national book
award winner). He has written about Cuba for publications worldwide from CNN
and National Geographic Traveler to Playboy, and is currently partnered with
actor David Soul (of ‘Starsky & Hutch’ fame) in a cinematic
documentary—‘Cuban Soul’—about restoring Ernest Hemingway’s 1955 Chrysler
New Yorker in Cuba. Christopher appears regularly as a Cuba expert on BBC,
CNN, Fox TV, NPR, and other radio and TV outlets. A gifted public speaker,
he has been privileged to address Cuba to such entities as the National
Press Club, National Geographic Society Live, and the World Affairs Council.
Christopher has designed and led more than 100 ‘People-to-People’ and
'Support for the Cuban People' group programs to Cuba for such companies as
Jim Cline Photo Tours, Lindblad Expeditions, National Geographic
Expeditions, and Santa Fe Photo Workshops, and has curated and led custom
trips of Cuba for CNN anchor Michael Smerconish, the Children’s Cancer
Association, the USCF Medical Center, and numerous motorcycle groups, among
others. He is available as a freelance tour leader and custom-tour planner.

CHRISTOPHER P BAKER, LLC

 
760.327.9879 direct 
760.285.9827 cel 
cpbaker@earthlink.net 


Kizzy Camejo  At the University of Havana I majored in English, French and Portuguese translation and I did my Masters studies in Tourism Management. I have been a tour guide in Cuba for ten years. Since 2013 I have my own tour coordination business called Kizzytours.com 

There I offer tailor made programs in Cuba; a one stop shop for anyone interested in coming to the island. I can provide good advice before and during your trip, transportation, accommodation, tours & experiences and more. I also own three rental apartments in the heart of Old Havana. 

Facebook  @Kizzy Camejo Torres  @Kizzytours  Whatsap  +53 53 45 29 22  kizzytours@gmail.com KizzyTour.com



Gina Faustin is the executive producer of  Kompa Guide, a 32 year-old   travel and entertainment company which produces weekly television shows, promotes annual Caribbean festivals, and specializes in international group tours.

She graduated from CCNY with an Architecture degree, has a minor in advertising, and a Master and Elite Certification in the Cruise Industry. She is a world class swimmer and an Olympic fencer.  

Her weekly television shows include  "Gina's Weekend, Streets Gaming, Mizik Creole, Tele Music, Tele Education, PR Times" cover a variety of community relevant subjects including health, politics, immigration issues, social trends, education, entertainment and world travel.   The shows feature many controversial subjects such as domestic violence, elder abuse, encourages viewers to exercise their freedom of speech, religion, assembly and political views.  She has met and interviewed many dignitaries including ambassadors, presidents, notable authors, senators, mayors, governors, physicians, university presidents and famous musicians.

As a promoter, she is the co-producer of the Creole-American Family Festival which attracts over 8,000 participants at Eisenhower Park; the Creole Expo which highlights the best of the Creole Islands by showcasing their beauty, business opportunities, tourism, cuisine, art, music and the Creole language.   

Gina leads an expedition of  friends and viewers to some of the most famous countries such as Italy, Spain, France, Israel, Russia, England, Tunisia, Egypt,  Poland, Germany, several Caribbean Countries, China, Japan, Korea,  84 countries and counting.  Her travel group also sponsors The Gina's Weekend Travelers scholarship to  minority students interested in traveling.

Professional organizations:  Clia-Cruise Line International; TANQ-Travel Agents of Brooklyn & Queens;  Certified Producers-QPTV;  President-Creole TV-NYC;   member of the Strategic Planning Committee  & Finance CT at Sacred Heart Church;  V.P. Parent Guild at St. Francis Prep H.S..

 


Andrea Holbrook is President of Holbrook Travel, Inc., a travel company based in Gainesville, Florida specialized in natural history and educational programs primarily to Latin American and East Africa.  Andrea first became involved in offering travel to Cuba in the early 2000’s after Andrea first traveled to Cuba and was forever changed by her experiences there.  Holbrook primarily offers groups focused on nature to Cuba including birding, botany, sea turtles, as well as other educational travel.   Holbrook is primarily a B2B travel provider working with nature and educational organizations as well as specialized leaders.  Andrea is also part of the family operation that owns and operates Selva Verde Lodge and Private Reserve in the lowland rainforests of Costa Rica.  Andrea is on the board of the Center for Responsible Travel (CREST).
 

Musician and educator Dr. Rena Kraut is founder and executive director of the Cuban American Youth Orchestra (CAYO), a non-profit organization which brings young Cuban and American musicians together to travel, learn, and perform. CAYO successfully completed its inaugural tour of Cuba in May 2019, with debut concerts in Matanzas and Havana's National Theater featuring the premiere of two compositions by Cuban composers. 

CAYO has held numerous small-group exchanges in both the US and Cuba since 2017 and has resumed Arts Delegations, which facilitate US citizen travel to Cuba under the Support for the Cuban People license. Find more information at www.cayomusic.org


William LeoGrande Associate Vice Provost for Academic Affairs, American UniversityProfessor of Government and a specialist in Latin American politics and U.S. foreign policy toward Latin America, Professor LeoGrande has been a frequent adviser to government and private sector agencies. He has written five books, including Our Own Backyard: The United States in Central America, 1977 – 1992. Most recently, he is coauthor of Back Channel to Cuba: The Hidden History of Negotiations between Washington and Havana. Previously, he served on the staffs of the Democratic Policy Committee of the United States Senate, and the Democratic Caucus Task Force on Central America of the United States House of Representatives. Professor LeoGrande has been a Council on Foreign Relations International Affairs Fellow, and a Pew Faculty Fellow in International Affairs. His articles have appeared in various international and national journals, magazines and newspapers.  PhD, Syracuse University     


John McAuliff is the founder and director of the Fund for Reconciliation and Development.  He is committed to contribute to the full normalization of US relations with Cuba as he did with Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia.  John has visited Cuba sixty-one times since 1971, all but the first visit from 1997.   His program focuses are expanding travel as well as educational and cultural exchange.  He collaborated with the Canadian-Greek Cuba Cruise and partners with Opera de la Calle and the magazine Temas.  A special interest is the role of Irish and Irish Americans in Cuban history and the Celtic links between the traditional music of Ireland and Cubans who immigrated from Asturia and Galicia.  <jmcauliff@ffrd.org>




Tom Popper, CEO of 82 West Consultants  With more than 20 years of experience working in Cuba, Tom is widely considered a leading expert in doing business in Cuba, Cuba travel, U.S.-Cuba policy, government relations, and U.S. and Cuba regulations.

In the early 2000s, Tom founded and was President of insightCuba, a leading single destination travel company and among the first to bring Americans to Cuba under the people-to-people license starting in 2000.

Throughout Tom's time working in Cuba, he's nurtured long established relationships within the Cuban government and people across the island. Tom's also navigated U.S. and Cuba regulations spanning five U.S. presidential administrations and three Cuban presidents.

Tom founded 82 West Consultants to help businesses explore and execute a market entry strategy into Cuba to help unlock its trade potential as it further opens its economy and seeks increasing foreign direct investment.

Tom has been featured, interviewed, and quoted by hundreds of newspapers and magazines including the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, Conde Nast Traveler, The New Yorker, and National Geographic. Tom's also been a contributor on CNN, ABC, CBS, and National Public Radio.


                            Resources


OFAC Information on New Regs

https://cubapeopletopeople.blogspot.com/2022/06/ofac-cuba-regulation-changes-june-8.html


Charter flights between airports in Florida and Camaguey, Holguin, Santa Clara and Santiago are beginning this month.  See the Cuban announcement of days of the week here or in On Cuba here.


Intercarribean is flying between Kingston, Jamaica and two Cuban cities, Havana and Santiago posted here.


Air Century is also flying between Santo Domingo and the same cities, Havana and Santiago posted here.



U.S. loosens restrictions on Cuba travel, remittances amid summit blowback

By Daphne Psaledakis
 and Dave Sherwood

WASHINGTON/HAVANA, June 8 (Reuters) - The United States on Wednesday moved to lift some Trump-era restrictions on remittances and travel to Cuba even as it fended off criticism for blocking the Communist-run island and long-time foe from attending a regional summit this week.

The amended regulations, set to be published in the U.S. Federal Register on Thursday, will provide further fine print around a broader easing of U.S. restrictions on Cuba first announced by the administration of President Joe Biden in May.

A Treasury Department official said publication of the new regulations was purposefully aligned with the U.S.-hosted Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles.

https://www.reuters.com/world/americas/us-loosens-restrictions-cuba-travel-remittances-amid-summit-blowback-2022-06-08/




Economic Eye On Cuba

Are the regulations issued by the OFAC useful and practical.  Are they written in such a manner that individuals will not understand them and legal counsel at companies will understand them and decide that the supposed opportunities presented are not implementable.  Are the regulations a lay person’s nightmare and an attorney’s income stream? 

There were considerable political pressures directed toward The White House for the Biden-Harris Administration to talk big, but craft a short leash.  To some constituencies present that many opportunities exist.  To other constituencies present that the changes and revisions are no big deal, nothing to see here; don’t lose any sleep.    

The fear was the Biden-Harris Administration would succumb to publishing “feal good” regulations where The White House and the United States Department of State will expound upon all of the new means of engagement- but in practical terms what is included and what is left out make implementation so cumbersome, so in need of compliance measures, that value to the supposed beneficiaries- in the case of the re-emerging MSMEs in the Republic of Cuba, are absent.  

The Biden-Harris Administration did importantly include in the new and revised OFAC regulations a focus upon funding support for MSMEs.  The Biden-Harris Administration did under a separate specific license authorize the first direct equity investment in and the first direct financing to a MSME. 

Unfortunately, there remains distance from stated intention and practical implementation.  Taking credit for permitting what is not practically implementable has resurfaced a theme from the past and the fear that derived from it. 

excerpt from report by John Kavulich

https://www.cubatrade.org/blog/2022/6/12/jz7ojytbg1jajy4d3x3hgbd0y2110r

Thursday, May 19, 2022

Press Accounts of New US Policy

 

Biden Finally Realized He Can’t Ignore Cuba Any Longe

The experience of other presidents demonstrates that engaging diplomatically with the Cuban government on issues of mutual interest, migration first and foremost, has been an effective way to advance U.S. interests.

President Joe Biden has finally learned the lesson that each of his 11 predecessors had to grudgingly accept when it comes to Cuba: Some U.S. interests can only be advanced by engaging with Havana. After a policy review that lasted 15 months, during which former President Donald Trump’s draconian economic sanctions remained in place, the State Department recently announced it will relax the measures that have had the greatest direct impact on the Cuban people.

The change comes at a moment when irregular migration from Cuba is aggravating the crisis on the U.S. southern border and Latin American heads of state are threatening to boycott the upcoming Summit of the Americas if Cuba is excluded.

Biden’s new measures are not a return to former President Barack Obama’s policy of normalization. They represent a limited, unilateral relaxation of specific sanctions that, taken together, look more like Obama’s first-term Cuba policy than the historic breakthrough of restoring full diplomatic relations announced in December 2014. But they will have an enormous impact, improving the standard of living for millions of Cubans and reducing the drivers of irregular migration.

Cuba-United States: the beginning of a new thaw or more of the same?

Biden will lift restrictions on cash remittances, which amounted to some $3.5 billion annually before Trump blocked them, and he will restore people-to-people educational travel, used by more than 638,000 U.S. visitors a year until Trump abolished it. The new policy also promises financial measures to facilitate commerce between U.S. businesses and Cuba’s growing private sector, though the devil will be in the details of the final regulations.

Biden’s new measures appear driven by the confluence of the migration crisis and Latin America’s rebellion over U.S. policy.

As the Cuban economy has contracted under the twin blows of U.S. sanctions and the COVID-19 pandemic, migration has soared. But since Trump downsized the U.S. Embassy in 2017, including ending consular services, the issuance of immigrant visas has plunged 90 percent. With safe, legal migration closed, tens of thousands of Cubans have crossed to the Latin American mainland and trekked north to the U.S. border—more than 35,000 in April alone, and 115,000 since last September. That is already more people than arrived during the 1994 “rafters” migration crisis and almost as many as in the 1980 Mariel boatlift—with no end in sight.

In April, the U.S. invited Cuba to resume regular migrations talks, as mandated by the bilateral migration agreement that grew out of the 1994 crisis—consultations that Trump suspended. Biden’s new measures reaffirm an earlier commitment to gradually restaff the U.S. Embassy’s consular section and resume issuing immigrant visas under the Cuban Family Reunification Program. Moreover, Biden’s restoration of remittances and travel will ease the economic hardship that is the main reason people leave.

Another key driver of Biden’s new policy are the objections from Latin American heads of state to senior U.S. officials’ assertions that Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua will not be invited to the Ninth Summit of the Americas, which Biden will host next month in Los Angeles. Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador rebuked the U.S. administration, warning, “If everyone is not invited, I will not go.” Other doubtful attendees include the leaders of Bolivia, Honduras and the 20 islands of the Caribbean Community. Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has hinted he might not participate either, although for reasons unrelated to Cuba. A boycott would be a huge embarrassment for Biden. Even at this late date, invitations have not gone out, so Cuba may be offered a seat at the table after all.

Migration and hemispheric politics are not new issues in U.S.-Cuban relations. Three other presidents faced migration crises: Lyndon Johnson in 1965, Jimmy Carter in 1980 and Bill Clinton in 1994. Each of them engaged with Cuba diplomatically because that was the only way to resolve the crisis at hand. Moreover, all three times, the domestic political costs of crises that became frontpage news were far greater than the risk of offending Cuban Americans in South Florida by engaging with the Castro regime.

Two of Biden’s predecessors similarly faced challenges from Latin America over their Cuba policies. In the early 1970s, Latin American countries began defecting from the 1964 Organization of American States’ economic and diplomatic sanctions on Cuba. The U.S. secretary of state at the time, Henry Kissinger, complained that Cuba was dominating meetings with his Latin American counterparts. Getting Cuba off the inter-American agenda was one of Kissinger’s motives for opening secret talks in 1975 to normalize relations with Havana, though they came to nothing.

Obama’s 2014 decision to normalize relations was heavily influenced by the public scolding he received from Latin American heads of state at the Sixth Summit of the Americas in 2012. Even close U.S. allies warned that unless Cuba was invited to the 2015 summit, they would not attend. In the words of Obama’s deputy national security adviser, Ben Rhodes, Washington’s policy of perpetual hostility had become “an albatross around the neck of the United States in the hemisphere and around the world.”

And so it remains. The uncanny parallel between the embarrassment Obama suffered at the Sixth Summit and the risk of even greater embarrassment for Biden at the ninth has finally forced the White House to embrace a limited reopening to Cuba. It is a good first step that will benefit many Cuban families, but unilateral actions alone are not enough.

In its last two years in office, the Obama administration signed 22 bilateral agreements with the Cuban government covering a wide range of issues of mutual interest, from environmental protection to law enforcement. The State Department also opened talks with Havana on the highly contentious issues of human rights and compensation for nationalized property and damages. In reversing Obama’s policy, Trump froze the implementation of those agreements and broke off all substantial diplomatic dialogue with Cuba.

The next step for Biden in developing his own Cuba policy should be to pick up where Obama left off, building closer cooperation with Havana on issues of mutual interest—not as a favor to the Cuban government, but because the only way for the U.S. to make progress on transnational problems is to cooperate with its neighbors.

The experience of other presidents demonstrates that engaging diplomatically with the Cuban government on issues of mutual interest, migration first and foremost, has been an effective way to advance U.S. interests. Cuban diplomat Ricardo Alarcon, who led Cuba’s negotiations with Washington for two decades, concisely summed up the logic of engagement: “We are two neighbors who have had abominable relations,” he said, but “unlike people, we aren’t able to move away.”

***

*This article was originally published on the WRP site. It is reproduced here with the explicit authorization of its author.

 


William M. LeoGrande is Professor of Government at American University in Washington, and co-author with Peter Kornbluh of “Back Channel to Cuba: The Hidden History of Negotiations between Washington and Havana (University of North Carolina Press, 2015).


https://oncubanews.com/en/cuba-usa/biden-finally-realized-he-cant-ignore-cuba-any-longe/

************************************

Bishop praises US stance toward Cuba, lauds family reunification efforts

May 19, 2022

by Rhina GuidosCatholic News Service

 

WASHINGTON — The chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee on International Justice and Peace praised a May 16 statement announcing the lifting of restrictions against Cuba by the Biden administration, particularly those measures that will help family reunification.

The Biden administration said it will increase consular services on the island to help with visa processing "making it possible for more Cubans to join their families in the United States via regular migration channels."

The State Department also announced plans to allow more people from the U.S. to engage with Cubans via group travel, allowing U.S. flights beyond Havana, and reinstating a remittance program for families in the U.S. to send up to $1,000 per quarter to family members on the island.

The move reverses restrictions imposed by the Trump administration, which had taken a more punitive stance on Cuba.

"We commend the administration's renewed interest in restarting U.S. engagement with Cuba. Recognizing that points of contention remain between our two countries, Cuba's punitive isolation has not produced the economic and social change that the United States has sought to effect," said Bishop David J. Malloy of Rockford, Illinois, who chairs the USCCB'S international policy committee.

Under President Barack Obama, the U.S. paved a path of direct engagement with people on the island, reopening embassies in both countries and expanding opportunities for travel.

The Vatican, Pope Francis and the former archbishop of Havana, Cardinal Jaime Ortega, are said to have played a part in the reopening of diplomatic relations between the two countries.

"We are all happy because ... we saw two nations, who were estranged for so many years, take a step to bring them close together," said Pope Francis in December 2014, when the renewal of relations was announced.

The USCCB has advocated for the U.S. engaging Cuba via dialogue, personal encounters between people, diplomacy and trade.

"The U.S. bishops, including the Cuban-American bishops, in conjunction with the Holy See and the bishops of Cuba, continue to stress the vital importance of bilateral engagement and mutually beneficial trade relations between the United States and Cuba as the key to transformative change on the island," Bishop Malloy said in a May 19 statement.

He added that expanding travel opportunities for U.S. citizens, "as well as the lifting of onerous remittance limitations, will strengthen familial, economic and social ties between our countries. Cuba's developing civil society and private sector depend on the leadership provided by active U.S. civil society engagement in Cuba."

Some, like U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez, voiced disappointment with the announcement. The New Jersey Democrat, whose parents came to the U.S. from Cuba, said in a May 16 statement that the Biden administration's announcement risked sending "the wrong message to the wrong people, at the wrong time and for all the wrong reasons."

"For decades, the world has been traveling to Cuba and nothing has changed. For years, the United States foolishly eased travel restrictions, arguing millions of American dollars would bring about freedom, and nothing changed," he said.

The USCCB, in its published "backgrounder on Cuba," explained that it "has long held that universal human rights will be strengthened through more engagement between the Cuban and American people."

The bishops' conference said that over the years, it has denounced crackdowns on the Cuban people and their right to dissent. But engagement will do more than "past U.S. policy of isolation."

The USCCB, like its counterpart on the island, the Cuban bishops' conference, also has opposed the U.S. embargo against Cuba, saying that "the principal effect on the embargo has been to strengthen Cuban government control and to weaken an already fragile civil society and economy, thereby hurting the most vulnerable."

https://www.ncronline.org/news/politics/bishop-praises-us-stance-toward-cuba-lauds-family-reunification-efforts

******************************


NY Times

Biden Administration Lifting Some Trump-Era Restrictions on Cuba

The changes include an expansion of flights to the country and the restarting of a family reunification program.

By David E. Sanger

May 16, 2022Updated 10:20 p.m. ET

WASHINGTON — The Biden administration on Monday announced a partial lifting of sanctions on Cuba, including expanding flights beyond Havana and restarting a program to reunify Cuban families in the United States, its first moves toward fulfilling President Biden’s campaign promise to reverse many of the sanctions imposed by his predecessor.

The changes, which also include relaxing the ban on remittances, were announced after a lengthy review of Cuba policy. They go into effect at a time when food and medicine shortages have created new waves of Cubans trying to reach U.S. shores.

While administration officials have said the actions would “center on human rights and empowering the Cuban people,” they were immediately denounced by Senator Bob Menendez of New Jersey, a Cuban American Democrat who is the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee. “Today’s announcement,” he said, “risks sending the wrong message to the wrong people, at the wrong time and for all the wrong reasons.”

 The split between Mr. Biden and Mr. Menendez goes to the heart of differences in both political parties about how to deal with the Cuban government. A government crackdown on dissent that began in July led Mr. Biden to announce largely symbolic sanctions on Cuban police officials and others accused of human rights abuses, including arrests of protesters. But it also made it harder to fulfill his campaign promise to restore the kind of relationship the Obama administration envisioned, and which Mr. Biden endorsed as vice president.

But Biden administration officials concluded that restoring the status quo from January 2017, when the Obama administration left office, is as complicated in the case of Cuba as it is in that of Iran, where a parallel effort has faltered.

The Biden administration’s policy review concluded that the best way to bring about change in Cuba was direct engagement with its people — not its government — which had also been the underlying logic of President Barack Obama’s opening to Havana. The administration has argued that it is shipping technology to Cubans to help them avoid government censorship and to help 20,000 people rejoin family members in the United States.

Mr. Menendez takes a very different view: that the only way to change the behavior of the Cuban government is to choke off its revenues. He objected specifically to the administration’s decision to allow groups to travel to Cuba, though not individual tourists.

“I am dismayed to learn the Biden administration will begin authorizing group travel to Cuba through visits akin to tourism,” Mr. Menendez said in a statement.

 “To be clear, those who still believe that increasing travel will breed democracy in Cuba are simply in a state of denial,” he said. “For decades, the world has been traveling to Cuba and nothing has changed. For years, the United States foolishly eased travel restrictions, arguing millions of American dollars would bring about freedom, and nothing changed.”

The largest program that is being revived is the Cuban Family Reunification Parole Program, which allowed up to 20,000 immigration visas to the United States each year. The State Department is expected to announce that it is stepping up the approval of visas at the embassy in Havana. There are 22,000 applications, officials said, that no one has acted on in the past five years.

The administration is also relaxing the ban on family remittances of $1,000 a quarter to make sure the payments go to individuals, not businesses. But it is unclear how the movement of money will be accomplished: The main financial processing firm, called Fincimex, has been run by the Cuban military.

In a conversation with reporters on Monday night, White House officials sidestepped one of the thorniest issues in the effort to undo the sanctions imposed by President Donald J. Trump: the continuing mystery over whether the Cuban government was responsible for mysterious ailments that have afflicted diplomats and C.I.A. personnel around the world.

The C.I.A. said in January that the ailments, broadly known as Havana syndrome because they were first identified among the U.S. delegation in Cuba, are unlikely to have been caused by Cuba, Russia or another foreign adversary.

The agency argued that a majority of the 1,000 cases reported to the government could be explained by environmental causes, undiagnosed medical conditions or stress, rather than a sustained global campaign by a foreign power. Groups representing the victims were angry, and the C.I.A. said studies were continuing for about two dozen cases that remained unexplained.

Biden administration officials have said recently that the inconclusive findings left them somewhat stuck, unable to resolve the Havana syndrome mystery and thus unable to do much with the diplomatic relationship.

David E. Sanger is a White House and national security correspondent. In a 38-year reporting career for The Times, he has been on three teams that have won Pulitzer Prizes, most recently in 2017 for international reporting. His newest book is “The Perfect Weapon: War, Sabotage and Fear in the Cyber Age.”  @SangerNYT  Facebook

 

 ****************

Washington Post

Biden to lift Trump-era restrictions on Cuba


By Karen DeYoung

Today at 7:13 p.m. EDT


The Biden administration is lifting Trump-era restrictions on Cuba, including some aspects of travel to the island, caps on remittances, and the issuance of at least 20,000 immigrant visas annually.

 A State Department statement described the measure as designed “to further support the Cuban people, providing them additional tools to pursue a life free from Cuban government oppression and to seek greater economic opportunities.”

 The decision comes after a lengthy internal review, delayed after a Cuban government crackdown on widespread street protests on the island last summer.

 The administration has also been under pressure to ease the numbers of migrants crossing the southern border, where tens of thousands of Cubans have become the second largest group of those seeking unauthorized entry through Mexico. Last month, the administration and Cuba held direct migration talks for the first time in four years.

 Under decades-old bilateral accords, suspended in 2018 as part of the Trump administration’s reversal of President Barack Obama’s opening to Cuba that had led to a restoration of diplomatic relations in 2015, the United States had agreed to issue at least 20,000 immigrant visas annually to Cubans. Visas were further limited when the U.S. Embassy and consulate were reduced to skeleton staffs in 2019.

 Biden-hosted Americas summit facing boycott over invitation list

 Under the new measures, the administration will increase capacity at the consulate and reinstate a family reunification parole program. The Trump-era cap that limited family remittances to $1,000 every three months is to be lifted, and a ban on nonfamily remittances will be eased to allow payment to independent Cuban entrepreneurs.

“We will encourage commercial opportunities outside of the state sector by authorizing access to expanded cloud technology, application programming interfaces, and e-commerce platforms, the statement said. Bans on commercial and charter flights to cities other than Havana will also be lifted.

 Cuba is facing a severe economic crisis, caused by a combination of U.S. sanctions, a sharp drop in tourism during the pandemic, and worldwide inflation.

 Biden, who had pledged to reverse the restrictive measures during his campaign, has been caught between conflicting pressures on Cuba. Senior lawmakers, including a number of Cuban Americas, have been opposed to any easing of the restrictions, while some Democrats and a number of countries in Latin America, have objected to them.

In a potential embarrassment for the administration, a growing number of hemispheric leaders have said they will not attend an America’s summit Biden is to host next month in Los Angeles, if Cuba is not invited.

Karen DeYoung is associate editor and senior national security correspondent for The Post. In more than three decades at the paper, she has served as bureau chief in Latin America and in London and as correspondent covering the White House, U.S. foreign policy and the intelligence community.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/national-security/2022/05/16/biden-cuba-travel-remittances-visas/

 

*****************************

Miami Herald

Reversing Trump measures, U.S. will expand flights to Cuba and resume family reunifications

 

BY MICHAEL WILNER AND NORA GAMEZ TORRES UPDATED MAY 16, 2022 9:03 PM

 

The Biden administration is restoring flights to Cuban cities other than Havana and reestablishing a family reunification program suspended for years, following recommendations of a long-anticipated review of U.S. policy toward Cuba, senior administration officials told McClatchy and the Miami Herald on Monday. The administration will also allow group travel for educational or professional exchanges and lift caps on money sent to families on the island. The policy changes come after a months-long review that began in earnest after a series of protests roiled the island nation on July 11, prompting a new round of U.S. sanctions on Cuban officials.

 Cuba is facing the worst economic crisis since the Soviet Union collapsed, with widespread shortages of food and medicines, and thousands of Cubans trying to reach the United States. One senior administration official said the new policy measures allow the administration to continue supporting the Cuban people and guarding U.S. national security interests. “Our policy continues to center on human rights, empowering the Cuban people to determine their own future and these are practical measures intended to address the humanitarian situation and the migration flows,” the official said, adding that labor rights will also be at the center of any talks with the Cuban government.

As promised in his campaign for the White House, President Joe Biden will reverse several of the measures taken by his predecessor, including by allowing commercial and charter flights to destinations outside the Cuban capital. Currently, American airline companies can only fly to Havana, leaving Cuban Americans with few options to visit their families in other provinces. The Cuban Family Reunification Parole Program, which has not taken new cases since 2016 and left 22,000 pending applications in limbo, will also be reinstated, the officials said, following bipartisan calls to address the issue. An administration official said the United States intends to uphold migration accords with Cuba from the 1990s, under which the United States committed to issuing 20,000 immigration visas to Cubans annually, a request made by a Cuban government delegation that recently traveled to Washington to discuss an ongoing wave of Cubans trying to reach the U.S. mainland by land and sea. One senior administration official also said the State Department will increase visa processing in the embassy in Havana, which resumed this month.

Other measures include lifting the cap on family remittances, currently $1,000 per quarter per person, with an eye on supporting the emerging private sector. The officials said the administration will encourage more electronic payment companies to work in Cuba to facilitate remittances. Official remittance channels were shut down after the Trump administration sanctioned Fincimex, the financial firm run by the Cuban military, and the Cuban government refused to pass the business to a non-military entity. Fincimex will not be removed from the Cuba sanction list, one senior official said, but the administration “has engaged” in talks with the Cuban government about finding a non-military entity to process remittances.

The administration will also expand travel to Cuba by once again allowing group travel under the “people-to-people” educational travel category, which was created under former President Barack Obama to allow Americans to visit the island on organized tours to promote exchanges between the two countries. The Trump administration later restricted most non-family travel to Cuba and eliminated the category in 2019.  The U.S. officials said there will be more regulatory changes to allow certain travel related to professional meetings and professional research, but individual people-to-people travel will remain prohibited.

Other measures aim at supporting independent Cuban entrepreneurs by authorizing access to expanded cloud technology, application programming interfaces and e-commerce platforms. The officials said the administration will “explore” options to facilitate electronic payments and expand Cuban entrepreneurs’ access to microfinancing. Last week, the Treasury Department for the first time authorized an American company to offer a microloan and investment to a small Cuban private business. The changes were announced later on Monday but will be implemented in the coming weeks.

The Biden administration has fielded criticism for so far keeping in place most measures taken by President Trump, who vowed a “maximum pressure” campaign against the communist government over its role in Venezuela. But some Cuban exiles, Cuban American Republican politicians and activists on the island have expressed concern about any easing of sanctions at a time the government has cracked down on protesters and handed down harsh sentences to July 11 demonstrators.

A senior administration official said the administration consulted the policy options with members of Congress and Cuban Americans. Minutes after the official release, Sen. Bob Menéndez, a powerful Cuban American democrat who chairs the Foreign Affairs Committee, said the timing of the announcement risks “sending the wrong message” as Cuban authorities continue the crackdown on Cubans critical of the government. “I am dismayed to learn the Biden administration will begin authorizing group travel to Cuba through visits akin to tourism, Menéndez said in a statement. “To be clear, those who still believe that increasing travel will breed democracy in Cuba are simply in a state of denial. For decades, the world has been traveling to Cuba and nothing has changed. “ A senior administration official told reporters on Monday evening that the Treasury Department can audit these trips and the administration will ensure that group travel takes place according to the law.

In a statement released Monday evening, Cuban foreign affairs ministry called the policy changes a “limited step in the right direction” but not enough in modifying the U.S. embargo. Relations between Washington and Havana soured over the islandwide anti-government demonstration last July. President Biden ordered sanctions against the military, police and security forces involved in the crackdown. And Havana responded by saying the demonstrations were financed by the United States. The more recent spat involves the invitations to attend the Summit of the Americas, a meeting of leaders from nations in the hemisphere to be held in Los Angeles in June. The U.S. government has said Cuba will likely not receive one. A senior administration said the invitations have not been issued yet. But the current wave of Cuban migrants reaching the U.S. southern border got the two governments to sit down for the first time since president Biden took office. The Cuban diplomat leading the talks, Carlos Fernández de Cossio, said he left with the sense that the talks could be the first step to improving relations. A senior administration official said the U.S. delegation did not address policy topics beyond migration. This story was originally published May 16, 2022 5:37 PM.

 

MICHAEL WILNER 202-383-6083 Michael Wilner is McClatchy’s Senior National Security and White House Correspondent. A member of the White House team since 2019, he led coverage of the federal response to the coronavirus pandemic. Wilner previously served as Washington bureau chief for The Jerusalem Post. He holds degrees from Claremont McKenna College and Columbia University and is a native of New York City.

NORA GÁMEZ TORRES 305-376-2169 Nora Gámez Torres is the Cuba/U.S.-Latin American policy reporter for el Nuevo Herald and the Miami Herald. She studied journalism and media and communications in Havana and London. She holds a Ph.D. in sociology from City, University of London. Her work has won awards by the Florida Society of News Editors and the Society for Professional Journalists.//Nora Gámez Torres estudió periodismo y comunicación en La Habana y Londres. Tiene un doctorado en sociología y desde el 2014 cubre temas cubanos para el Nuevo Herald y el Miami Herald. También reporta sobre la política de Estados Unidos hacia América Latina. Su trabajo ha sido reconocido con premios de Florida Society of News Editors y Society for Profesional Journalists.

 https://www.miamiherald.com/news/nation-world/world/americas/cuba/article261493517.html#storylink=cpyhttps://www.miamiherald.com/news/nation-world/world/americas/cuba/article261493517.html#storylink=cpy

 

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 CNN

Biden reverses some Trump policies related to Cuba, making it easier for families to visit relatives in country

 By Jennifer Hansler and Kevin Liptak, CNN

Updated 7:32 PM ET, Mon May 16, 2022

 

(CNN)The State Department on Monday announced a series of measures it said is aimed at supporting the Cuban people, including reinstating the Cuban Family Reunification Parole Program and increasing consular services and visa processing.

"We will make it easier for families to visit their relatives in Cuba and for authorized US travelers to engage with the Cuban people, attend meetings and conduct research," spokesperson Ned Price said in a statement.

The Biden administration is also lifting the family remittance cap of $1,000 per quarter "and will support donative remittances to Cuban entrepreneurs, both with the goal of further empowering families to support each other and for entrepreneurs to expand their businesses," Price said.

President Joe Biden promised in September 2020, during the campaign, that he would "try to reverse the failed Trump policies that inflicted harm on Cubans and their families." His administration had been conducting a review of Trump's Cuba policies since Biden took office in January 2021. How Biden navigates Cuba could carry political implications, given he lost Florida to Trump in the 2020 election after the former President repeatedly claimed Biden would turn the US into a "socialist country" if he won, a message that resonated with Cuban Americans.

The announced changes to Cuba policy announced came after a lengthy review ordered by the President, and amount to the biggest policy steps toward the island since Biden took office. Yet they stop short of fully reinstating the Obama-Biden administration approach toward Cuba, leaving in place some restrictions and maintaining sanctions on certain entities.

The US will still prohibit American tourism in Cuba and won't allow individuals to travel there for educational purposes, even after loosening some Trump-era restrictions on the island, senior administration officials said Monday.

But the changes will expand the number of commercial and charter flights to Cuba, including to cities beyond Havana, and will allow more Americans to interact with the Cuban people through authorized group "people-to-people" visits.

Doing so "will allow for greater engagement between the American people ... and their democratic values," one senior administration official said.

The US still plans to process immigrant visas at its embassy in Guyana as it works to restaff its facility in Havana, which saw a reduction in size following still-unexplained health incidents among diplomats and staff. Biden instructed his team to increase the staffing at the embassy, in part to make applying for immigrant visas easier.

The announcement comes as Biden faces a decision over whether to invite Cuban leaders to the upcoming Summit of the Americans, which he is hosting in Los Angeles at the start of June. Officials insisted the changes announced Monday were completely unrelated to the summit and controversy surrounding its potential exclusion of certain leaders in the region.

"We should be focusing on addressing a whole host of shared challenges in the region and not blow up the summit over who shows up and who's who doesn't," one official said.

Instead, they said the lifting of the restrictions came after months of deliberation and study, which Biden ordered following protests in Cuba last year.

An official described the changes as "practical steps that we are taking to address the humanitarian situation and to respond to the needs of the Cuban people."

This story has been updated with additional reporting.

 https://www.cnn.com/2022/05/16/politics/cuba-joe-biden/index.html


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 Sun-Sentinal

Biden administration expected to lift Trump-era restrictions on Cuba

By ZEKE MILLER, ANDREA RODRIGUEZ and AAMER MADHANI

Associated Press

May 16, 2022 at 7:54 pm

WASHINGTON — The Biden administration announced Monday that it will expand flights to Cuba, take steps to loosen restrictions on U.S. travelers to the island, and lift Trump-era restrictions on remittances that immigrants can send to people on the island.

The State Department said in a statement that it will remove the current $1,000-per-quarter limit on family remittances and will allow non-family remittance, which will support independent Cuban entrepreneurs. The U.S. will also allow scheduled and charter flights to locations beyond Havana, according to the State Department.

The administration said it will also move to reinstate the Cuban Family Reunification Parole Program, which has a backlog of more than 20,000 applications, and increase consular services and visa processing.

“With these actions, we aim to support Cubans’ aspirations for freedom and for greater economic opportunities so that they can lead successful lives at home,” State Department spokesman Ned Price added. “We continue to call on the Cuban government to immediately release political prisoners, to respect the Cuban people’s fundamental freedoms and to allow the Cuban people to determine their own futures.”

The policy changes come after a review that began soon after a series of widespread protests on the island last July.

Former President Donald Trump had increased sanctions against Cuba, including the cancellation of permits to send remittances and the punishment of oil tankers bound for the island.

These measures and the pandemic contributed to an economic crisis in Cuba, where people suffer from shortages of basic products, power outages and rationing.

The economic situation led thousands of people to the streets across Cuba on July 11, 2021 — the largest such protests in decades on the island. Many people were frustrated with shortages and low salaries, as well with the socialist government. Nongovernmental organizations have reported more than 1,400 arrests and 500 people sentenced to up to 20 years in prison for vandalism or sedition.

In recent weeks, both the U.S. and the Cuban governments have started some conversations, amid a surge of Cubans trying to emigrate illegally to the U.S.

The first week of April, the U.S. Embassy in Havana resumed processing visas for Cubans, though on a limited basis, more than four years after stopping consular services on the island amid a hardening of relations.

Sen. Robert Menendez, a New Jersey Democrat who heads the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said the moves send the “wrong message” to Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel’s government. Menendez was particularly critical of the administration decision to reinstate travel by groups for educational and cultural exchanges as well as some travel for professional meetings and professional research on the island.

“I am dismayed to learn the Biden administration will begin authorizing group travel to Cuba through visits akin to tourism,” Menendez said. “To be clear, those who still believe that increasing travel will breed democracy in Cuba are simply in a state of denial.”

White House officials, who briefed reporters on the condition of anonymity, noted that the Treasury Department has the authority to audit groups that are organizing travel and will ensure that travel is purposeful and in accordance with U.S. law.

One official defending the move noted that the president has underscored his belief that “Americans are the best ambassadors for democratic values.”

Biden said as a presidential candidate that he would revert to Obama-era policies that loosened decades of embargo restrictions on Havana. Meanwhile, Republicans accused him of not being supportive enough of Cuban dissidents.

President Barack Obama’s rapprochement was reversed by Trump, who sharply curtailed remittances that Cuban Americans were allowed to send to relatives on the island, barred financial and commercial transactions with most Cuban companies affiliated with the government or military and, in his final days in office, redesignated Cuba a “state sponsor of terrorism,” in part for its support of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.

Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., said he would put a hold on all relevant Biden nominees requiring Senate confirmation until the decision is reversed.

“Biden can frame this however he wants, but this is the truth: this is nothing but an idiotic attempt to return to Obama’s failed appeasement policies and clear sign of support for the evil regime,” Scott said.

Rodriguez reported from Havana.

https://www.sun-sentinel.com/news/nationworld/ct-aud-nw-cuba-biden-united-states-20220516-r2osvn2qrzcizlcy45kqajsl5e-story.html

 

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Financial Times

US eases Cuba policy to allow more travel and remittances

Biden administration softens aspects of Trump’s hardline approach to island’s communist government

The Biden administration is restarting a stalled visa programme for Cubans and will allow more flights and visits to the island, softening former president Donald Trump’s harder line against the communist government.

President Joe Biden’s decision came after a more than year-long review of policy towards the country, where the economy has been squeezed by the coronavirus pandemic and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, spurring a jump in Cuban migration to the US.

Biden’s administration said it will aim to issue 20,000 visas under a family reunification programme for Cubans to join their relatives in the US. It will also permit more commercial flights to destinations beyond Havana for group educational trips and lift a $1,000 limit on quarterly remittances.

“These measures will aim to support greater freedom and expand economic opportunities for the Cuban people,” a senior Biden administration official said on Monday.

The war in Ukraine has hurt the Cuban economy, with fuel scarcity causing blackouts and limited public transport available. That disruption came after a pandemic slump in dollar revenue from tourism led to chronic food and medicine shortages.

The economic crisis has driven more Cubans to try to migrate to the US. Since October, almost 80,000 Cubans have crossed the US-Mexico border, more than double the number in 2021, according to statistics from US Customs and Border Protection. Arrivals from Cuba surged in March, when border patrol agents encountered more than double the number in all of 2020.

The new measures are partly a reversal of Trump’s restrictions on the island, which has been subject to a US trade embargo since the 1960s. Former president Barack Obama eased some of the toughest measures while in office, but Trump rolled back his predecessor’s actions, describing it as a “one-sided deal”.

US policy towards Cuba also has electoral ramifications, as conservative Cuban-American voters who tend to favour a harder line on the island’s communist government represent a significant bloc in the swing state of Florida.

Republican senator Marco Rubio of Florida denounced the announcement, while Democrat Bob Menendez from New Jersey, who chairs the Senate foreign relations committee, said he was “dismayed” by the authorisation of group travel.

“To be clear, those who still believe that increasing travel will breed democracy in Cuba are simply in a state of denial,” he said in a statement. “For decades, the world has been travelling to Cuba and nothing has changed.”

The senior Biden administration official said the measures, which also included support for Cuban entrepreneurs, would be implemented over the coming weeks and that it was committed to human rights issues.

In just a few weeks, the US is due to host the Summit of the Americas, one of the most important political meetings in the hemisphere. Mexico’s president Andrés Manuel López Obrador and other Latin American leaders have threatened to not attend unless Cuba is invited.

The senior Biden administration official said the measures were not linked to the summitt, and a decision on whether Cuba would be invited had not been made.

https://www.ft.com/content/16142e35-0a50-4d06-810b-c962cf296533

 

 *****************************

NPR

Biden eases restrictions on Cuban travel and remittances

May 16, 20229:22 PM ET

 

FRANCO ORDOÑEZ

The Biden administration plans to make it easier for families to visit relatives in Cuba and increase visa processing on the island, reversing some of former President Trump's harsh policies toward the island government.

The move comes after a long review of U.S.-Cuba relations and fulfills some of President Biden's campaign promises.

"The measures today again are practical steps that we are taking to address the humanitarian situation and to respond to the needs of the Cuban people," a senior administration official said. "President Biden is also fulfilling his commitment to the Cuban-American community and their family members in Cuba by announcing measures in four key areas which we plan to implement in the coming weeks."

Just a year ago, the Biden administration slapped additional sanctions against the Cuban officials following widespread crackdowns of large antigovernment protests.

In addition to reinstating the Cuba Family Reunification Parole program and increasing consular services, the administration is also lifting a $1,000 cap on family remittances, increasing support for Cuban entrepreneurs and expanding authorized travel.

The announcement, however, fell short of previous polices enacted by the Obama administration.

Individual "people-to-people" travel will not be reinstated, for example.

A senior administration official said the U.S. also would not remove entities from the Cuba Restricted List, the list of Cuban government- and military-aligned companies that U.S. companies are blocked from doing business with.

A senior administration official said the moves are aimed at helping the Cuban people, but the timing of the announcement also raised questions whether the U.S. is trying to curry favor with leftist leaders in the region.

The U.S. is hosting this year's Summit of the America and some leaders in the region have threatened not to attend unless Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua are also invited.

Mark Feierstein, a former senior adviser at the U.S. Agency for International Development under Biden, said the plans were under way long before the controversy emerged.

He called them a "big change" and "tilting back" toward the Obama era in line with Biden campaign promises. But he acknowledged the timing of the announcement can't be overlooked.

He noted that some Biden officials will soon be traveling to Mexico to meet with President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who is threatening not to attend.

"It's possible this is a signal to Mexico and others that the administration is prepared to revise the policy toward Cuba, but not necessarily willing to invite Cuba to the summit," he said.

Cuban officials called the moves "positive, but of a very limited scope."

"These announcements in no way modify the blockade or the main measures of economic siege adopted by Trump," the Cuban Foreign ministry said in a statement.

A key Democrat also released a concerning statement.

Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey, chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, criticized the decision, saying the administration was authorizing "visits akin to tourism."

"To be clear, those who still believe that increasing travel will breed democracy in Cuba are simply in a state of denial," Menendez said in a statement.

In response to Menendez's concerns, the senior administration official said the administration will ensure that "travel is purposeful and in accordance with U.S. law."

Reuters

U.S. revises Cuba policy, eases restrictions on remittances, travel

By Daphne Psaledakis

Matt Spetalnick

 and Humeyra Pamuk

 WASHINGTON, May 16 (Reuters) - The United States on Monday announced a series of steps to revise its policy toward Cuba, including easing some Trump-era restrictions on family remittances and travel to the island and sharply increasing the processing of U.S. visas for Cubans.

The measures, which were rolled out after a lengthy U.S. government review, mark the most significant changes in the U.S. approach to Havana since President Joe Biden took office in January 2021.

But the announcement stopped short of returning U.S.-Cuba relations to the historic rapprochement engineered by former President Barack Obama, under whom Biden served as vice president. That included less crimped flow of remittances, fewer travel curbs and faster visa services.

U.S. State Department spokesperson Ned Price in a statement said the measures announced Monday were to "further support the Cuban people, providing them additional tools to pursue a life free from Cuban government oppression and to seek greater economic opportunities."

The State Department said the United States would lift the cap on family remittances, previously set to $1,000 per quarter, and authorize donative remittances to non-family members.

But it made clear that the United States would not remove entities from the Cuba Restricted List, a State Department list of Cuban government- and military-aligned companies with whom U.S. firms and citizens are barred from doing business.

"We are going to ensure that remittances flow more freely to the Cuban people, while not enriching those who perpetrate human rights abuses," an administration official said.

The United States will use "electronic payment processors" for remittances to avoid funds going directly to the Cuban government, an official said, adding that the United States had already engaged with the Cuban government "about establishing a civilian processor for this."

Biden officials have been mindful that easing restrictions on the communist-run island could lead to political fallout from conservative Cuban Americans, a key voting bloc in south Florida who mostly backed former President Donald Trump's tough policies on Cuba.

Senator Bob Menendez, the Democratic chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said in a statement: "Today's announcement risks sending the wrong message to the wrong people, at the wrong time and for all the wrong reasons."

Trump slashed visa processing, restricted remittances, scaled back flights and increased hurdles for U.S. citizens seeking to travel to Cuba for anything other than family visits.

There were few details on how the new policy would be implemented, but officials said the steps would be implemented over coming weeks.

Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez, in a Twitter post, called the U.S. announcement "a limited step in the right direction."

"The decision does not change the embargo, the fraudulent inclusion (of Cuba) on a list of state sponsors of terrorism nor most of the coercive maximum pressure measures by Trump that still affect the Cuban people," he said.

FAMILY REUNIFICATION

Among the changes is a plan to reinstate the Cuban Family Reunification Parole Program, which had provided a legal way for Cuban families to be reunited in the United States, and increase capacity for consular services.

Washington will aim to issue 20,000 immigrant visas a year, the official said, in line with a migration accord. The Biden administration is seeking to expand embassy staffing to handle the backlog but it was unclear how and when that might happen.

The U.S. embassy in Havana began issuing a trickle of immigrant visas to Cubans this month, making good on an earlier promise to restart visa processing on the island after a four-year hiatus.

The Biden administration will also expand authorized travel to Cuba, allowing scheduled and charter flights to use airports other than Havana, according to the State Department.

Washington will also reinstate some categories of group educational travel, as well as certain travel related to professional meetings and research.

Individual "people-to-people" travel, however, will not be reinstated. The category was eliminated by Trump officials who said it was being abused by Americans taking beach vacations.

The United States will also increase support for independent Cuban entrepreneurs, aiming to ease access to the internet and expanding access to microfinance and training, among other measures.

Biden promised during the 2020 election to re-engage with Cuba. But Havana's crackdown following widespread protests on the island last July led instead to sanctions on Cuban officials.

The Cuban government blamed the protests on meddling by the United States.

"We continue to call on the Cuban government to immediately release political prisoners, to respect the Cuban people's fundamental freedoms and to allow the Cuban people to determine their own futures," Price said.

The officials said a decision has not been made on whether to invite Cuba to next month's U.S.-hosted Summit of the Americas. Mexico and others have threatened to not attend unless all countries in the Americas are invited. read more

 

Reporting by Daphne Psaledakis, Matt Spetalnick and Humeyra Pamuk; Additional reporting by Patricia Zengerle in Washington and David Sherwood in Havana; Editing by Mary Milliken and Rosalba O'Brien

 

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Cuba Calls Biden Easing Some Restrictions 'Limited Step in Right Direction'

BY TOM O'CONNOR ON 5/16/22 AT 8:16 PM EDT

The Cuban Foreign Ministry has partially welcomed and criticized President Joe Biden's decision to ease certain restrictions against the island nation, noting that it would still keep in place broad efforts to maintain pressure against Havana's Communist-led government.

"The announcements do not modify the blockade in any way," the Cuban Foreign Ministry said in a statement shared with Newsweek on Monday, "nor the main economic siege measures taken by Trump, such as the listings of entities that are subject to additional coercive measures, nor does it eliminate travel bans on Americans."

"It does not reverse the arbitrary and fraudulent inclusion of Cuba on the State Department's list of countries that are allegedly sponsors of terrorism," the statement continued, "one of the main causes of the difficulties that Cuba encounters for its commercial and financial transactions in many parts of the world."

"It is, however," the statement added, "a limited step in the right direction."

Speaking to reporters Monday, a senior Biden administration official said the White House was rolling out a package of new measures including the resumption of immigration visa processing, expanding authorized travel for family and educational purposes, reinstating people-to-people educational travel under a general license, increasing support for Cuban entrepreneurs and relaxing tight restrictions on the flow of remittances.

The official emphasized, however, that other sweeping restrictions in line with the six-decade embargo against Cuba would remain in place, in addition to specific sanctions placed on individuals and institutions since Biden took office.

Asked by Newsweek if the measures marked a departure from the hard-line strategy pursued by former President Donald Trump toward a more conciliatory approach pioneered by former President Barack Obama, whom Biden served as vice president, the senior administration official said that the steps were focused on improving humanitarian support and empowering U.S.-Cuba connections in line with Washington's interests.

"These are steps that are...intended to help alleviate the humanitarian suffering that prompts outbound migration from Cuba and also to advance our interest in supporting the Cuban people and ensuring that Cuban Americans and Americans, in general, are also the best ambassadors for U.S. policy," the official said.

And while the Biden administration has rejected the "maximum pressure" approach on other foreign policy areas such as Iran, the official said the current agenda very much planned to keep the pressure up against Havana.

"The measures are ones that are a complement to what has been an active effort since July of last year to increase the pressure on human rights abuses in Cuba, and to find ways to provide more direct humanitarian support," the official said.

"And again," the official added, "the president's direction has been to find ways to hold the regime accountable and to support the Cuban people and that's been what has informed this policy."

The U.S. has maintained broad sanctions against Cuba since shortly after the revolution that brought leader Fidel Castro to power in 1959, toppling a U.S.-backed government. These restrictions have been occasionally expanded over the years until Obama introduced a thaw in long-frozen ties, setting the stage for the mutual opening of embassies and greater opportunities for educational, tourist and cultural interactions.

Then-Vice President Biden backed the measures at the time and his wife, now-first lady Jill Biden, even visited Cuba weeks before the 2016 election that would ultimately bring victory for Trump and a return to tense U.S.-Cuba relations. Trump reversed much of Obama's detente with a series of constraints and pointed the finger at the Cuban government amid a series of reports of health incidents affecting personnel at the U.S. embassy in Havana.

While challenging Trump on the campaign trail in September 2020, Biden said he would "try to reverse the failed Trump policies that inflicted harm on Cubans and their families." But little progress was made on this front and, in July of last year, a series of rare protests in Cuba in response to economic hardships exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic prompted an even tougher approach by Biden.

Last month, a senior Cuban official told Newsweek that U.S. and Cuban officials "haven't had one official formal serious discussion on any issue."

Less than two weeks later, U.S. and Cuban officials announced that they held their first talks on migratory issues in four years.

Despite these early inroads, speculation has mounted as to whether or not the U.S. would invite Cuba along with fellow leftist-led Nicaragua and Venezuela to the Summit of the Americas set to be held next month in Los Angeles. Mexico and a number of Caribbean nations have threatened to boycott the event if all countries in the Western Hemisphere were not included.

White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters Monday she had no update to offer on the invite list, and the senior Biden administration official on Monday's call said the announcement vis-à-vis Cuba policy was "completely separate" from the invitation issue.

"We should be focusing on addressing a whole host of shared challenges in the region and not blow up the summit over who shows up and who doesn't," then official said.

Monday's Cuban Foreign Ministry statement reiterated the nation's "willingness to initiate a respectful dialogue on an equal footing with the Government of the United States, based on the Charter of the United Nations, without interference in internal affairs and with full respect for the independence and sovereignty."

The Biden administration has also been subject to domestic pressure on Cuba, especially from Republicans and a sizable, influential community of Cuban Americans opposed to the Cuban Communist Party's rule.

A joint statement released by Republican Senators Marco Rubio, Rick Scott, Jim Risch, Bill Cassidy, and Ted Cruz, along with Republican Representatives Mario Díaz-Balart, Michael McCaul, Mark Green, María Elvira Salazar and Carlos Giménez accused Biden of "appeasing Cuba's murderous regime."

And within Biden's own party, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chair Bob Menendez of New Jersey said the move "risks sending the wrong message to the wrong people, at the wrong time and for all the wrong reasons."

Others such as Massachusetts Representative Jim McGovern, however, welcomed the move.

"Encouraged by steps in the right direction from the Biden administration on Cuba," McGovern tweeted. "Reversing Trump's failed strategy & undoing decades of outdated, cold-war policies will take time. I applaud this move towards a smarter strategy of engagement and diplomacy."

https://www.newsweek.com/cuba-calls-biden-easing-some-restrictions-limited-step-right-direction-1707154

 

 ***************************************

New York Post

Biden eases money transfers to Cuba and flips Trump migrant, travel rules

By Steven Nelson May 16, 2022 

The Biden administration on Monday said it would relax rules for sending money to Cuba and reverse former President Donald Trump’s policies that made it more difficult to travel to or migrate from the island.

The slate of changes outraged prominent Cuban-American politicians who hoped Cuba’s authoritarian Communist leaders were on the ropes after large anti-government protests last year, which were harshly repressed.

The financial reforms include lifting a $1,000 per quarter remittance cap and allowing for direct US investments for the first time since 1960.

The US also will restart a family reunification program for Cubans to move to the US, which the Trump administration suspended in 2017, and resume “educational” US group travel to the island that was banned in 2019.

Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ), the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, condemned the plan to resume educational group tours, saying in a statement that the plan was “akin to tourism” and would benefit the Cuban government.

“I am dismayed to learn the Biden administration will begin authorizing group travel to Cuba through visits akin to tourism. To be clear, those who still believe that increasing travel will breed democracy in Cuba are simply in a state of denial,” Menendez said.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) tweeted, “The regime in #Cuba threatened [President] Biden with mass migration and have sympathizers inside the administration and the result is today we see the first steps back to the failed Obama policies on Cuba.”

Nicaragua’s leftist government in November allowed Cuban citizens to visit without a visa, and many Cubans are using the Central American nation as a starting point to reach the US-Mexico border, where COVID-19 deportation policies are scheduled to end next week.

The restarted Cuban Family Reunification Parole Program allows for 20,000 US visas per year.

Biden administration officials defended the policies in a White House-organized call on Monday night.

One administration official said that “the humanitarian situation in Cuba right now is very concerning. And as the president directed us to find ways to meaningfully support the Cuban people, he assessed that these measures do take steps to do so at a particularly concerning time.”

A different official noted US condemnation of the Cuban authorities’ repression of protests last year.

“The crackdown by the Cuban regime after the July 11 protests were there for I think the world to see and the sentences that were imposed on people that were singing in the streets and asking for food and to have a greater say in the future of their country really shows the situation, the lack of respect for human rights on the island,” the second official said.

He added, “But these are steps that we thought were designed to get specifically to the Cuban people and that were in our unilateral interest.”

US citizens have been allowed to visit Cuba since President Barack Obama’s administration relaxed decades-old rules in 2015 — though many flouted the prior US ban and entered through third countries.

Although Trump rescinded the educational group tours, US citizens have still been allowed to go if they could document their “Support for the Cuban People” with little enforcement and easy-to-meet guidelines such as staying at an Airbnb rental rather than a hotel and dining at private restaurants.

The precise new US policies around investments in Cuba were not described in detail in government releases.

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The Miami Herald reported Monday that last week the US Treasury Department issued a precedent-setting decision granting a license to a company controlled by John Kavulich, president of the U.S.-Cuba Trade and Economic Council, to invest less than $25,000 in a Cuban business.

The Herald said the Treasury Department’s decision “appears to be a first in more than six decades” and “could open the gate to American investment.”

Cuban government salaries are extremely low by international standards — with doctors earning just $67 per monthSince 2010, Cubans have been allowed to engage in some private enterprises, including owning restaurants.

The State Department cast the Biden reforms as enabling greater freedom from the Communist government, despite pushback.

“We will encourage the growth of Cuba’s private sector by supporting greater access to U.S. Internet services, applications, and e-commerce platforms. We will support new avenues for electronic payments and for U.S. business activities with independent Cuban entrepreneurs, including through increased access to microfinance and training,” the State Department said.

“We also will support Cuban families and entrepreneurs by enabling increased remittance flows to the Cuban people in ways that do not enrich human rights abusers.  We will lift the family remittance cap of $1,000 per quarter and will support donative remittances to Cuban entrepreneurs, both with the goal of further empowering families to support each other and for entrepreneurs to expand their businesses.”

https://nypost.com/2022/05/16/biden-eases-money-transfers-to-cuba-and-flips-trump-migrant-travel-rules/

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Florida Republicans Slam Biden’s New Cuba Policies

By

 Kevin Derby

 -

May 18, 2022, 6:00 am

 

This week, the Biden administration announced “a series of measures to increase support for the Cuban people in line with our national security interests” which drew fire from Republicans in the Florida delegation.

Insisting that “the Cuban people are confronting an unprecedented humanitarian crisis — and our policy will continue to focus on empowering the Cuban people to help them create a future free from repression and economic suffering,” the U.S. State Department announced steps to “facilitate family reunification by reinstating the Cuban Family Reunification Parole (CFRP) Program and continuing to increase capacity for consular services.”

The Biden administration will increase visa processing and expand counselor services and air travel. The State Department also announced efforts to “ensure that remittances flow more freely to the Cuban people while not enriching those who perpetrate human rights abuses” including ending “the current limit on family remittances of $1,000 per quarter per sender-receiver pair and will authorize donative (i.e., non-family) remittances, which will support independent Cuban entrepreneurs.”

Ned Price, a spokesman for the State Department, weighed in on the new policies, which break with those established during the Trump presidency, on Monday.

“The administration’s policy towards Cuba continues to focus first and foremost on support for the Cuban people, including their human rights and their political and economic well-being,” said Price. “Today, the administration announced measures to further support the Cuban people, providing them additional tools to pursue a life free from Cuban government oppression and to seek greater economic opportunities.

“We will reinstate the Cuban Family Reunification Parole (CFRP) Program and further increase consular services and visa processing, making it possible for more Cubans to join their families in the United States via regular migration channels,” he added. “We will make it easier for families to visit their relatives in Cuba and for authorized U.S. travelers to engage with the Cuban people, attend meetings, and conduct research.

“We will encourage the growth of Cuba’s private sector by supporting greater access to U.S. Internet services, applications, and e-commerce platforms. We will support new avenues for electronic payments and for U.S. business activities with independent Cuban entrepreneurs, including through increased access to microfinance and training,” Price continued. “We also will support Cuban families and entrepreneurs by enabling increased remittance flows to the Cuban people in ways that do not enrich human rights abusers. We will lift the family remittance cap of $1,000 per quarter and will support donative remittances to Cuban entrepreneurs, both with the goal of further empowering families to support each other and for entrepreneurs to expand their businesses.

“With these actions, we aim to support Cubans’ aspirations for freedom and for greater economic opportunities so that they can lead successful lives at home. We continue to call on the Cuban government to immediately release political prisoners, to respect the Cuban people’s fundamental freedoms and to allow the Cuban people to determine their own futures,” Price said in conclusion.

Congressional Republicans, including U.S. Sens. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and Rick Scott, R-Fla., and U.S. Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Fla., Carlos Giménez, R-Fla., and Maria Elvira Salazar, R-Fla., took aim at the new policies in a joint statement.

“During Cuba’s historic anti-regime protests last year, President Biden said ‘[t]he United States stands with the brave Cubans who have taken to the streets to oppose 62 years of repression under a communist regime.’ Yet today, while hundreds of activists remain unlawfully imprisoned, the White House is resurrecting President Obama’s failed policy of unilateral concessions to the Castro/Díaz-Canel criminal dictatorship,” the lawmakers said. “Rather than supporting their pleas for freedom by expanding democracy programming, broadcasting, global diplomacy, and sanctions against their oppressors, the Biden White House is rewarding the Western Hemisphere’s longest-ruling communist dictatorship with high-level talks, easing sanctions, increased travel, and access to U.S. financial institutions. Appeasing Cuba’s murderous regime does not comply with the statutory requirements in U.S. law and undercuts America’s support for Cuba’s democratic opposition,” they said.

“The Biden administration’s repeated appeasement to the Cuban dictatorship is a betrayal of America’s commitment to human rights and freedom, and to the longsuffering Cuban people who are struggling for a genuine democratic transition,” they added.

U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist, D-Fla., threw his support behind the new policies.

“The Cuban communist regime continues to violently oppress peaceful protestors crying out for freedom and liberty, all while more and more Cubans attempt the dangerous journey to the United States to escape,” said Crist. “I am encouraged by the Biden administration’s announcement today, and it is my hope that this will improve the quality of life for everyday Cubans on the island, while giving Cuban-Americans the freedom to visit, support, and reunite with their families. I look forward to continuing to engage the administration, along with Cuban community leaders, to make sure that entrepreneurship dollars go to mamás y papás and not to companies run by the military establishment. If the Cuban people have alternatives to the communist regime for internet access and financial services, this could be a game-changer for freedom and democracy in Cuba. ¡Patria y vida! ¡Cuba será libre!”

 Kevin Derby

Originally from Jacksonville, Kevin Derby is the editor of Florida Daily and covers politics across Florida. Reach Kevin at kevin.derby@floridadaily.com

https://www.floridadaily.com/florida-republicans-slam-bidens-new-cuba-policies/


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[This is a balance to Miami Herald columnists.  I have no idea who Arthur Gonzalez is.  A hard liner from the Cuban Party or Security Services?  A true believer from the US solidarity movement?  A disinformation blog from the US or Russian government to sow distrust? Or just someone who does not understand how US political reality will distort the characterization of even good intentions until both countries have achieved a measure of real normalization and reconciliation.]



Cuba is alert to Biden's new measures.

By Arthur Gonzalez

May 17, 2022
 
Translated by Walter Lippmann for CubaNews.

On May 16, 2022, Joe Biden's administration unveiled new measures towards Cuba, which point to the same historical direction of subverting the internal order to dismantle socialism, despite the fact that in 63 years they have only obtained failures.

One does not have to be a political analyst or expert in these matters to realize that the current administration does not hide tits intentions to finance an internal counterrevolution, to work on the youth and strengthen the cognitive war through the use of the Internet, in order to sow disenchantment and discouragement among the people, just as their predecessors did and that is why they keep the economic, commercial and financial war intact, regardless of which party the rulers of the day belong to.

The CIA's plans for covert actions against Cuba are no longer secret, since imperial arrogance is such that their desire to crush governments that maintain their sovereignty and freedom drives them to a level of open action, without the slightest demur.

For that reason, the announced measures, more electoral than beneficial for Cuba's economy, are a signal for the people to be very attentive to the subversive activities that will accompany them, as well as the actions of the new diplomats arriving in Havana.

The official communiqué from the U.S. government states:

"The authorization of group travel by Americans for educational or professional exchanges to visit the Island is for them to interact with the Cuban people, attend meetings and conduct research."

It adds:

"The intended purpose is to encourage the growth of Cuba's private sector, supporting it with greater access to U.S. Internet services, applications and e-commerce platforms, opening new avenues for electronic payments and for U.S. business activities with independent Cuban entrepreneurs, who will be allowed greater access to and training in microfinance."

An administration official clearly stated:

"The new policy measures allow the administration to continue to support the Cuban people and protect U.S. national security interests. Our policy continues to focus on human rights, empowering the Cuban people to determine their own future, and are practical measures aimed at addressing the humanitarian situation and migration flows." "Labor rights will be at the center of any conversation with the Cuban government."

Regarding remittances, the route to be used is yet to be defined, but the official communiqué states:

"The $1,000 per quarter limit on remittances will be suspended, with a view to supporting the emerging private sector."

Evidence of what they aspire to achieve was stated by a State Department official:

Before approving them, the administration consulted on policy options with Cuban-American members of Congress.

On these measures, the Florida Democratic Party asserted:

"The Administration's announced changes in Cuba policy seek to maintain pressure on the regime while preventing citizens of the Island from becoming collateral damage," and Manny Diaz, chairman of the Florida Democratic Party, explained, "Cuba policy is best conducted with a scalpel, not a machete."

As stated by the Cuban Foreign Minister, "the objectives of the Yankee policy are the same as always", something reflected in the statements made by Timothy Zúñiga-Brown, US Chargé d'Affaires in Cuba, on March 3, 2022, when he announced to the press that his country would resume the issuance of migrant visas in Havana and that the new accredited diplomats have included a strategy of broader expansion in their functions, to facilitate diplomatic dialogue and with the "civil society".

The Cubans have in mind the objectives proposed by the Council on Foreign Relations, for the design of a new policy towards Havana, welcomed by Barack Obama, where they express:

The means should be used to support, nurture and strengthen the civil society that is slowly, tentatively, but persistently beginning to emerge in Cuba today (1999) under the shell of communism.

Promote U.S. interests and values in Cuba in order to hasten the day when a fully democratic Cuba can assume a normal and friendly relationship with the United States.

Promote the transition to democracy.

End restrictions on humanitarian visits, those that Cubans residing in the United States make on their trips to Cuba, as well as those of U.S. citizens.

Increase the cap on remittances to $10,000 per family per year, but U.S. authorities should be alert to any tax the Cuban government might want to impose on those funds or any other regulatory policy that might be developed on them.

Reduce or eliminate existing restrictions that hinder graduate and post-graduate academic exchanges, and issue a permanent license to all Americans wishing to travel to Cuba.

Sending professionals to Cuba to advise on the organization of small businesses and private farms. It would include inviting Cuban counterparts to the United States.


Nothing has changed, it is more of the same in a desperate attempt to dismantle socialism from within, taking advantage of the hardships caused by the economic warfare increased by Donald Trump.

Not to forget what Obama clearly said in his speech of December 17, 2014:

"...we will continue to address issues related to democracy and human rights in Cuba [...] we can do more to support the Cuban people and promote our values through engagement." "...we will insist that civil society join us so that citizens, not just leaders, shape our future."      

On 01.07.2015 in reporting the opening of embassies Obama specified:

"We will be able to significantly increase our contact with the Cuban people." "We will have more staff, and our diplomats will be able to engage more extensively across the island...including with civil society and with Cubans seeking to achieve a better life." The changes introduced in our new policy will further enhance our goal of empowering the Cuban people.

Our travel and remittance policies are helping Cubans by providing new sources of information, opportunities for self-employment and access to privately owned assets, and strengthening independent civil society.

These measures will serve to further encourage people-to-people contacts, to further support civil society in Cuba.

Our efforts are focused on promoting the independence of Cubans from dependence on the Cuban state.


In 2004, this was embodied in the Bush Plan:

"Reaching out to Cuban youth represents one of the most significant opportunities to precipitate the end of the regime."

Cuba will be vigilant to confront the new actions of political and ideological subversion, an important component within the context of the doctrine of unconventional warfare developed by the U.S. government, as it is a permanent and continuous process, with a strategy focused on provoking the softening of the Cuban people's character and capacity for resistance, with the aim of imposing Yankee values and symbols.

That is why José Martí asserted:

"Trenches of ideas are worth more than trenches of stones".


https://www.facebook.com/permalink.php?story_fbid=4709807025790743&id=100002844750695


https://groups.io/g/cubanews/topic/facebook_arthur_gonzalez/91252248?