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.
● 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
● 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.
United States Senator
Cynthia M. Lummis
United States Senator
Chris Van Hollen
United States Senator
cc: Secretary Blinken
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.
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