Sunday, February 12, 2023

Senator Wyden Urges Real US Support for Private Sector

 March 15, 2023

The Honorable Joseph R. Biden

President of the United States

The White House

1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW

Washington, DC 20500

Dear President Biden:

The U.S. embargo against Cuba has failed. It has neither facilitated regime change, nor advanced

any notable improvements in human rights, democracy or economic freedom in Cuba. Instead, 

the embargo has limited the U.S. government’s ability to advocate for U.S. interests in Cuba, 

stifled opportunities for American businesses, farmers and ranchers, and hurt both Americans 

and Cubans in Cuba. 

Small, private sector Cuban entrepreneurs have been clamoring for access to capital that could 

help their businesses thrive, support private sector employment, and make it less likely Cubans 

seek to migrate to the United States due to lack of hope for a better future. Rather than continue 

the failed policy of broad-based sanctions, your Administration should undertake efforts to 

increase economic exchange between the United States and the Cuban people. This should 

include risk-based, targeted efforts, including narrow changes to U.S. licensing and regulations, 

to support Cuba’s small and medium-sized private enterprises in accessing U.S. financial 

services to legitimate the Cuban private sector and facilitate its growth. Easing restrictions on 

trade and travel will also increase demand for U.S. commodities and make it easier for U.S. 

exporters to reach the Cuban market, benefiting American workers, farmers, ranchers, and 

businesses that comprise the thriving U.S. export sector. In addition, increased trade and 

investment from the United States will provide an important counterbalance to funds offered by 

China, which has shown an increasing interest in the island nation’s finances. As the 

Administration seeks to increase economic ties with Cuba’s private sector, however, it must 

exercise proper care and oversight to guard against money laundering or support of the Cuban 


We understand that the Administration supports changes to U.S.-Cuba policy, and we appreciate 

the steps the Administration has already taken to improve relations with Cuba. That said, the 

United States can, and should, do more. We urge you to swiftly take the following steps to ease 

restrictions on private-sector financing, trade, communication and travel with Cuba: 

Support Small, Private-Sector Cuban Businesses by Providing Targeted Access to U.S. 

Financial Services

● Assess the extent to which the Cuban government controls banks in Cuba and explore a 

licensing framework allowing transactions between U.S. financial institutions and Cuban 

banks that have been determined to be civilian-managed; 

● Establish a targeted Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) license to allow U.S. banks

to provide financial services to small, private sector Cuban businesses, potentially 

through Cuban banks, with appropriate risk management controls to prevent the flow of 

funds to entities controlled by the Cuban government. The licensing regime should 

include both payments activity and microfinancing of the private sector in Cuba, 

including agricultural cooperatives; 

● Reinstate OFAC general licenses for U.S. financial institutions to process “U-turn” 

transactions—transactions between Cuban and non-U.S. persons that pass through the 

U.S. financial system; 

Increase Trade in Food and Agricultural Products Between the U.S. and Cuba 

● Encourage the Cuban government to end its requirement that all imports from the United 

States be facilitated through a Cuba state entity. This requirement is not imposed on all of

Cuba’s trading partners, creating a competitive disadvantage for U.S. farmers and 

ranchers relative to other exporting countries; 

● Foster further collaboration between the U.S. and Cuban agriculture sectors by improving

and revitalizing existing Memoranda of Understanding between the U.S. Department of 

Agriculture (USDA) and Cuba’s Ministry of Agriculture; 

● Work with stakeholders to encourage the use of USDA’s Market Access Program (MAP)

and Foreign Market Development (FMD) Program funds, authorized by the 2018 Farm 

Bill, to educate U.S. farmers and ranchers and facilitate the export of U.S. agricultural 

commodities to the Cuban market;

Support Access to Information and Person-to-Person Contact in Cuba

● Publish specific regulations and/or guidance to support internet access in Cuba, which 

would facilitate access to e-commerce and the free flow of information and 

communication across Cuba and between the U.S. and Cuba; 

● Publish guidance to allow U.S.-based firms to provide cloud-based services, fee-based 

platforms, e-commerce services and digital banking in Cuba, with appropriate risk 

management controls; 

● Reinstate OFAC general licenses for individual person-to-person educational travel; and

● Reinstate OFAC general licenses for participation in, or organization of, public 

performances, clinics, workshops, athletic or nonathletic competitions, and exhibitions in 


To be clear, we continue to have serious concerns about the Cuban government’s repression of 

peaceful, pro-democracy advocacy. We strongly support your Administration’s efforts to hold 

the Cuban government accountable for violations of human rights, civil rights and worker rights, 

including forced labor. That said, unilateral sanctions have not brought about democratic change.

In contrast, they have arguably strengthened the Cuban government’s hand by acting as a readily 

available scapegoat for the Cuban government’s own political and economic failures. We believe

that the thoughtful, targeted lifting of restrictions on trade and travel with Cuba would facilitate 

the development of a thriving private sector and increase the pressure on Cuba’s leaders to be 

more responsive to the Cuban people, while also increasing U.S. influence on the island. 

We thank you for considering these requests and look forward to working with you to improve 

U.S.-Cuba relations for the benefit of the American and Cuban people. 


Ron Wyden

United States Senator

Cynthia M. Lummis

United States Senator

Chris Van Hollen

United States Senator

cc: Secretary Blinken 

Secretary Vilsack

Secretary Yellen

Secretary Raimondo


Wyden: Cuban Private Sector Small Businesses Should Get Strong U.S. Support

Following Fact-Finding Trip to Cuba, Wyden Renews Call to Normalize Trade Relations; Wyden Raised Need to Improve Human Rights In Meeting with Cuban President

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., is calling on the Biden Administration to strengthen support for Cuba’s small and medium-sized private enterprises by creating more general licenses, as well as giving the private sector access to international banking, following his fact-finding trip to Cuba. Wyden, who chairs the Senate Finance Committee and was the first Senator to visit Cuba in four years, intends to discuss his ideas with Senate colleagues over the weeks ahead. 

“During my visit to Cuba I was told by entrepreneurs that the vibrant Cuban private sector would benefit from narrow changes to U.S. licensing and other rules,” Wyden said. “Specifically, the entrepreneurs told me that general licenses, allowing them to operate in spite of the sanctions, would bring legitimacy and credibility to them and their businesses. They told me they expected these changes to lead to the creation of thousands of new businesses. In addition, they said bank accounts would make it easier to attract investment capital, and knowing that I authored the U.S. e-commerce law, they requested that I assist with their e-commerce initiatives.” 

Wyden believes the U.S. rule changes would benefit private sector Cuban companies, and developing Cuban economic opportunities would help reduce Cuban migration to the United States. He believes a growing middle class of entrepreneurs and family businesses will lay the foundations for fundamental political and economic reforms in one of our closest neighbors.  The senator also saw growing involvement by China in the Cuban economy, which can present national security as well as economic security concerns for Americans.

In addition to Wyden’s work on these new small business proposals, the senator continued his ongoing efforts to build support for three of his long-standing priorities – ending the economic embargo, normalizing U.S.-Cuban trade relations and removing Cuba’s designation as a state sponsor of terrorism – while emphasizing the need to improve human and worker rights in the country. In a meeting on December 28, 2022, Senator Wyden urged Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel to offer clemency for the July 2021 Cuban protestors.

On his last day in Cuba, January 1, 2023, the senator visited with Miguel Calderon Gomez, the famous former coach of the Cuban national basketball team, to discuss how basketball and sports can contribute to better relations between nations. Calderon Gomez also reminisced with Wyden about how the United States “Dream Team” beat the Cuban squad he coached 30 years ago in Portland, Oregon, before the Barcelona Olympics.

Wyden is the sponsor of legislation to end the trade embargo of Cuba, and last year urged the Biden-Harris administration to reverse Donald Trump’s failed Cuba policies. He last visited Cuba in 2018, as part of a Senate delegation.

No comments:

Post a Comment