CUBA BRIEF: Engage Cuba Officials Listed as Registered Agents, The Best Trump Speech? Trump’s memo to the Cabinet, and End of the Cycle for Castro in Cuba and Dos Santos in Angola Inbox x

In this issue:

  • “The End of The Cycle for Two Caudillos” by Yoani Sanchez
  • From The Hill “Trump’s Best Speech”
  • “Engage Cuba Officials Listed as Registered Agents,” The Washington Free Beacon
  • President Trump’s “National Security Presidential Memorandum on Strengthening the Policy of the United States Toward Cuba.”

CubaBrief:  In our Freedom Calendar today: This coming Thursday, June 22, 2017 a major conference in Spanish on U.S. policy toward Cuba: Donald Trump and Barack Obama at the Institute for Cuban and Cuban American Studies at the University of Miami. ICCAS is the prestigious research and analysis institution on Cuba. Its director Professor Jaime Suchlicki will moderate the panel of several experts.  For more information call 202-427-3875 or 305-284-CUBA. Space is limited. We take notice that President Trump sent to his cabinet the “National Security Presidential Memorandum on Strengthening the Policy of the United States Toward Cuba,” which we include in this issue.

We are reproducing “The End of The Cycle for Two Caudillos”, a recent article by Yoani Sanchez. The two Caudillos are José Eduardo Dos Santos and Raul Castro. “Longevity in their positions is another of the commonalities between Castro and Dos Santos.” They have a lot more in common.  “Isabel dos Santos, nicknamed by her compatriots the Princess, has wasted no time in taking advantage of the prerogatives that her father grants her. Forbes magazine calls her the richest woman in Africa.” Yoani Sanchez says that “she resembles Raul Castro’s daughter Mariela in her taste for giving statements to the foreign media” … “but all her businesses prosper thanks to the privileges she enjoys as the daughter of her father.” And there is her brother, José Filomeno de Sousa dos Santos, also economically advantaged,… an emulator of Alejandro Castro Espín.”

CubaBrief notes that Engage Cuba has removed the words “under the radar” and any references to “behind-the-scenes” as well as other details which describe the lobbying operations from their website.  It is clear that James Williams, the organization’s leader is a registered agent of a for-profit travel service. The question is whether Engage Cuba activities  are covered by the  Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) “that requires persons acting as agents of foreign principals in a political or quasi-political capacity to make periodic public disclosure of their relationship with the foreign principal, as well as activities, receipts and disbursements in support of those activities.” The issue could be whether Engage Cuba has held discussions with Cuban government officials to coordinate its campaigns in the United States. Please turn to today’s The Washington Free Beacon:


The Washington Free Beacon, June 20, 2017

Engage Cuba Officials Listed as Registered Agents of For-Profit Travel Service

Nonprofit campaigns for more open travel, commerce with Cuba, opposes Trump’s new restrictions

By: Susan Crabtree 

Executives of the nonprofit advocacy group Engage Cuba, one of whom has taken credit for leading an “under-the-radar” $3 million national campaign to convince the Obama administration “to reform” U.S.-Cuba relations, are listed as registered agents of a for-profit travel service that shares the initials of the non-profit firm.

Engage Cuba is a nonprofit that advocates lifting the travel and trade embargo on Cuba. It was formed in 2015 after then-President Barack Obama’s late-2014 diplomatic thaw with the communist island nation. Over the last few months, the group has released several reports and polls aimed at convincing Trump not to roll back any of Obama’s looser rules on travel to and U.S. commerce with Cuba.

Supporters of Obama’s Cuba détente—including the former president’s Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes, one of the lead architects of the policy—have cited Engage Cuba polls and reports over the last several years and in the lead-up to Trump’s partial rollback of his predecessor’s rapprochement.

The group, headed by James Williams, says on its website that its “funds are entirely dedicated to our advocacy efforts.” The website also claims to have the “largest bipartisan lobbying operation working on U.S.-Cuba policy.”

Under the heading of “access,” the group says that it organizes trips and hosts events, “including briefings with U.S. and Cuban government officials.”

“We navigate Cuban and U.S. regulations and facilitate customized trips to help organizations and businesses engage with Cuba,” the website states.

The website does not mention that Williams and another top officials of Engage Cuba are involved in a for-profit entity that appears to be a travel service. Williams, along with Florida businessmen Ricardo Herrero and Ariel Pereda, are listed as registered agents for EC Travel & Services LLC, a company based in Coral Gables, Fla., in its article of incorporation records on the Florida Secretary of State’s website. Pereda serves as the chairman for the Engage Cuba Business Council.

A credit report suggests that the “EC” in EC Travel & Services LLC stands for “Engage Cuba.”

Under tax law, nonprofit groups may have affiliated for-profit entities as long as they do not provide an undisclosed private benefit to officials of the nonprofit organization.

Jan Baran, a partner at Wiley Rein who specializes in election law and government ethics, said there are many ways in which a for-profit entity can legally assist in a nonprofit’s work such as if it provides a more cost-effective service such as travel without commission fees or at a reduced commission that other widely available commercial travel services do not provide.

“The issue is always whether or not there is some sort of benefit going to an officer of the group, usually in the way of payments” that does not serve the public-interest goals of the organization, Baran said.

The organization’s 990—the IRS report all nonprofits are required to file annually—would be the starting point to scrutinize any payments Engage Cuba made to EC Travel & Services, Baran said.

A form 990 for Engage Cuba is not yet available on, a database for nonprofit information. A brief report on Engage Cuba on GuideStar said the IRS granted the group tax-exempt status in 2016. That means that the group has until November of this year to file a 990 with the IRS, Baran said.

Engage Cuba’s press contact did not return multiple inquiries for comment or requests for its 990 form.

In bios posted on Engage Cuba’s website, Williams has taken credit for playing a leading role in the campaign that resulted in Obama’s historic policy shift with Cuba.

Williams is an “experienced public policy advocate and political strategist who assembled and led an under-the-radar $3 million national campaign to convince the Obama administration to reform U.S. Cuba relations,” a bio on the Engage Cuba website originally stated when the group was formed.

“To achieve this unprecedented result, Williams built a coalition of civil society groups and business interests, running the advocacy effort more like a campaign than a traditional public policy organization and staying behind the scenes to maintain the focus on the policy issues at stake,” the bio states.

That bio has been altered to remove the words “under the radar” and any references to “behind-the-scenes” as well as other details.

Before those changes were made, opponents of the Obama administration’s effort to normalize relations with Cuba and some ethics watchdogs questioned the lack of transparency behind the multi-million dollar campaign that pushed for the historic thaw. [More]


14ymedio, June 12, 2017

The End Of The Cycle For Two Caudillos

By Yoani Sanchez

14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Havana, 12 June 2017 — His mother died, his brother emigrated and now no one brings flowers to the tomb of one of those many young Cubans who lost their lives on the African plains. His death served to build the authoritarian regime of José Eduardo dos Santos in Angola, a caudillo who, since 1979, has held in his fist a nation of enormous resources and few freedoms.

The presidents of Cuba and Angola, Raúl Castro and José Eduardo Dos Santos during the signing of bilateral agreements, in the Palace of the Revolution of Havana. (File / EFE)

At 74, Dos Santos knows the end is near. His health has deteriorated in recent months and he has announced that he will withdraw from politics in 2018, the same year that Raul Castro will leave the presidency of the Cuba. Both intend to leave their succession firmly in place, to protect their respective clans and to avoid ending up in court.

For decades, the two leaders have supported each other in international forums and maintained close co-operation. They are united by their history of collaboration – with more than 300,000 Cubans deployed in Angolan territory during the civil war, financed and armed by the Soviet Union – but also connected by their antidemocratic approach.

Longevity in their positions is another of the commonalities between Castro and Dos Santos.

The Angolan, nicknamed Zedu, is an “illustrious” member of the club of African caudillos who continue to cling to power. A group that includes men like the disgraceful Robert Mugabe, who has led Zimbabwe for 37 years, and Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, who has governed for almost 38 years Equatorial Guinea.

Their counterpart on the Island surpasses them, having spent almost six decades in the control room of the Plaza of the Revolution Square, as a minister of the Armed Forces or, following his brother’s illness, as president. Neither Zedu nor Castro tolerate political opposition and both have fiercely suppressed any dissent. [More]


The Hill, June 20, 2017

Pavlich: Trump’s best speech

By Katie Pavlich – 06/20/17 05:21 PM EDT

President Trump has never been accused of being an eloquent or charismatic speaker. In fact, his rough-edged style has roiled commentators and professional politicos inside the Beltway for years, while being cheered by his supporters across the country.

But with Trump, it’s always been about the message and reaching results, not the delivery. During a speech in Miami last week, he managed to bring both together as he announced an end to many of the Obama administration’s normalization policies with Cuba.

According to the White House, the goal isn’t to cut off relations altogether as the United States has done in the past, but rather to secure a better deal for the American and Cuban people.

In a hot, packed room full of Cuban dissidents at the Manuel Artime Theatre in Miami, Trump made his argument and paid respect to the thousands of people who have dedicated their lives to fighting the evils of the Castro regime.

“Many of you witnessed terrible crimes committed in service of a depraved ideology. You saw the dreams of generations held by captive, and just, literally, you look at what happened and what communism has done. You knew faces that disappeared, innocents locked in prisons, and believers persecuted for preaching the word of God,” the president said. “You watched the Women in White bruised, bloodied, and captured on their way from Mass. You have heard the chilling cries of loved ones, or the cracks of firing squads piercing through the ocean breeze. Not a good sound.

“The exiles and dissidents here today have witnessed communism destroy a nation, just as communism has destroyed every single nation where it has ever been tried,” he continued. “But we will not be silent in the face of communist oppression any longer. You have seen the truth, you have spoken the truth, and the truth has now called us, this group, called us to action.” [More]


The White House

Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release

June 16, 2017

National Security Presidential Memorandum on Strengthening the Policy of the United States Toward Cuba


                 THE SECRETARY OF STATE



                 THE ATTORNEY GENERAL












                    AND BUDGET







                    FOR ECONOMIC AFFAIRS



                    AND TECHNOLOGY POLICY


                    TO THE UNITED NATIONS







Section 1.  Purpose.

The United States recognizes the need for more freedom and democracy, improved respect for human rights, and increased free enterprise in Cuba.  The Cuban people have long suffered under a Communist regime that suppresses their legitimate aspirations for freedom and prosperity and fails to respect their essential human dignity.

My Administration’s policy will be guided by the national security and foreign policy interests of the United States, as well as solidarity with the Cuban people.  I will seek to promote a stable, prosperous, and free country for the Cuban people.  To that end, we must channel funds toward the Cuban people and away from a regime that has failed to meet the most basic requirements of a free and just society.

In Cuba, dissidents and peaceful protesters are arbitrarily detained and held in terrible prison conditions.  Violence and intimidation against dissidents occurs with impunity.  Families of political prisoners are not allowed to assemble or peacefully protest the improper confinement of their loved ones.  Worshippers are harassed, and free association by civil society organizations is blocked.  The right to speak freely, including through access to the internet, is denied, and there is no free press.  The United States condemns these abuses.

The initial actions set forth in this memorandum, including restricting certain financial transactions and travel, encourage the Cuban government to address these abuses.  My Administration will continue to evaluate its policies so as to improve human rights, encourage the rule of law, foster free markets and free enterprise, and promote democracy in Cuba.

Sec. 2. Policy.

It shall be the policy of the executive branch to:

      (a)  End economic practices that disproportionately benefit the Cuban government or its military, intelligence, or security agencies or personnel at the expense of the Cuban people.

      (b)  Ensure adherence to the statutory ban on tourism to Cuba.

      (c)  Support the economic embargo of Cuba described in section 4(7) of the Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity (LIBERTAD) Act of 1996 (the embargo), including by opposing measures that call for an end to the embargo at the United Nations and other international forums and through regular reporting on whether the conditions of a transition government exist in Cuba.

      (d)  Amplify efforts to support the Cuban people through the expansion of internet services, free press, free enterprise, free association, and lawful travel.

      (e)  Not reinstate the “Wet Foot, Dry Foot” policy, which encouraged untold thousands of Cuban nationals to risk their lives to travel unlawfully to the United States.

      (f)  Ensure that engagement between the United States and Cuba advances the interests of the United States and the Cuban people.  These interests include: advancing Cuban human rights; encouraging the growth of a Cuban private sector independent of government control; enforcing final orders of removal against Cuban nationals in the United States; protecting the national security and public health and safety of the United States, including through proper engagement on criminal cases and working to ensure the return of fugitives from American justice living in Cuba or being harbored by the Cuban government; supporting United States agriculture and protecting plant and animal health; advancing the understanding of the United States regarding scientific and environmental challenges; and facilitating safe civil aviation.

Sec. 3. Implementation.

The heads of departments and agencies shall begin to implement the policy set forth in section 2 of this memorandum as follows:

      (a)  Within 30 days of the date of this memorandum, the Secretary of the Treasury and the Secretary of Commerce, as appropriate and in coordination with the Secretary of State and the Secretary of Transportation, shall initiate a process to adjust current regulations regarding transactions with Cuba.

           (i)    As part of the regulatory changes described in this subsection, the Secretary of State shall identify the entities or subentities, as appropriate, that are under the control of, or act for or on behalf of, the Cuban military, intelligence, or security services or personnel (such as Grupo de Administracion Empresarial S.A. (GAESA), its affiliates, subsidiaries, and successors), and publish a list of those identified entities and subentities with which direct financial transactions would disproportionately benefit such services or personnel at the expense of the Cuban people or private enterprise in Cuba.

           (ii)   Except as provided in subsection (a)(iii) of this section, the regulatory changes described in this subsection shall prohibit direct financial transactions with those entities or subentities on the list published pursuant to subsection (a)(i) of this section.

           (iii)  The regulatory changes shall not prohibit transactions that the Secretary of the Treasury or the Secretary of Commerce, in coordination with the Secretary of State, determines are consistent with the policy set forth in section 2 of this memorandum and:

                 (A)  concern Federal Government operations, including Naval Station Guantanamo Bay and the United States mission in Havana;

                 (B)  support programs to build democracy in Cuba;

                  (C)  concern air and sea operations that support permissible travel, cargo, or trade;

                 (D)  support the acquisition of visas for permissible travel;

                 (E)  support the expansion of direct telecommunications and internet access for the Cuban people;

                 (F)  support the sale of agricultural commodities, medicines, and medical devices sold to Cuba consistent with the Trade Sanctions Reform and Export Enhancement Act of 2000 (22 U.S.C. 7201 et seq.) and the Cuban Democracy Act of 2002 (22 U.S.C. 6001 et seq.);

                 (G)  relate to sending, processing, or receiving authorized remittances;

                 (H)  otherwise further the national security or foreign policy interests of the United States; or

                 (I)  are required by law.

      (b)  Within 30 days of the date of this memorandum, the Secretary of the Treasury, in coordination with the Secretary of State, shall initiate a process to adjust current regulations to ensure adherence to the statutory ban on tourism to Cuba.

           (i)    The amended regulations shall require that educational travel be for legitimate educational purposes.  Except for educational travel that was permitted by regulation in effect on January 27, 2011, all educational travel shall be under the auspices of an organization subject to the jurisdiction of the United States, and all such travelers must be accompanied by a representative of the sponsoring organization.

           (ii)   The regulations shall further require that those traveling for the permissible purposes of non academic education or to provide support for the Cuban people:

                 (A)  engage in a full-time schedule of activities that enhance contact with the Cuban people, support civil society in Cuba, or promote the Cuban people’s independence from Cuban authorities; and

                 (B)  meaningfully interact with individuals in Cuba.

           (iii)  The regulations shall continue to provide that every person engaging in travel to Cuba shall keep full and accurate records of all transactions related to authorized travel, regardless of whether they were effected pursuant to license or otherwise, and such records shall be available for examination by the Department of the Treasury for at least 5 years after the date they occur.

           (iv)   The Secretary of State, the Secretary of the Treasury, the Secretary of Commerce, and the Secretary of Transportation shall review their agency’s enforcement of all categories of permissible travel within 90 days of the date the regulations described in this subsection are finalized to ensure such enforcement accords with the policies outlined in section 2 of this memorandum.

      (c)  The Secretary of the Treasury shall regularly audit travel to Cuba to ensure that travelers are complying with relevant statutes and regulations.  The Secretary of the Treasury shall request that the Inspector General of the Department of the Treasury inspect the activities taken by the Department of the Treasury to implement this audit requirement.  The Inspector General of the Department of the Treasury shall provide a report to the President, through the Secretary of the Treasury, summarizing the results of that inspection within 180 days of the adjustment of current regulations described in subsection (b) of this section and annually thereafter.

      (d)  The Secretary of the Treasury shall adjust the Department of the Treasury’s current regulation defining the term “prohibited officials of the Government of Cuba” so that, for purposes of title 31, part 515 of the Code of Federal Regulations, it includes Ministers and Vice-Ministers, members of the Council of State and the Council of Ministers; members and employees of the National Assembly of People’s Power; members of any provincial assembly; local sector chiefs of the Committees for the Defense of the Revolution; Director Generals and sub–Director Generals and higher of all Cuban ministries and state agencies; employees of the Ministry of the Interior (MININT); employees of the Ministry of Defense (MINFAR); secretaries and first secretaries of the Confederation of Labor of Cuba (CTC) and its component unions; chief editors, editors, and deputy editors of Cuban state-run media organizations and programs, including newspapers, television, and radio; and members and employees of the Supreme Court (Tribuno Supremo Nacional).

      (e)  The Secretary of State and the Representative of the United States to the United Nations shall oppose efforts at the United Nations or (with respect to the Secretary of State) any other international forum to lift the embargo until a transition government in Cuba, as described in section 205 of the LIBERTAD Act, exists.

      (f)  The Secretary of State, in coordination with the Attorney General, shall provide a report to the President assessing whether and to what degree the Cuban government has satisfied the requirements of a transition government as described in section 205(a) of the LIBERTAD Act, taking into account the additional factors listed in section 205(b) of that Act.  This report shall include a review of human rights abuses committed against the Cuban people, such as unlawful detentions, arbitrary arrests, and inhumane treatment.

      (g)  The Attorney General shall, within 90 days of the date of this memorandum, issue a report to the President on issues related to fugitives from American justice living in Cuba or being harbored by the Cuban government.

      (h)  The Secretary of State and the Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development shall review all democracy development programs of the Federal Government in Cuba to ensure that they align with the criteria set forth in section 109(a) of the LIBERTAD Act.

      (i)  The Secretary of State shall convene a task force, composed of relevant departments and agencies, including the Office of Cuba Broadcasting, and appropriate non-governmental organizations and private-sector entities, to examine the technological challenges and opportunities for expanding internet access in Cuba, including through Federal Government support of programs and activities that encourage freedom of expression through independent media and internet freedom so that the Cuban people can enjoy the free and unregulated flow of information.

      (j)  The Secretary of State and the Secretary of Homeland Security shall continue to discourage dangerous, unlawful migration that puts Cuban and American lives at risk. The Secretary of Defense shall continue to provide support, as necessary, to the Department of State and the Department of Homeland Security in carrying out the duties regarding interdiction of migrants.

      (k)  The Secretary of State, in coordination with the Secretary of the Treasury, the Secretary of Defense, the Attorney General, the Secretary of Commerce, and the Secretary of Homeland Security, shall annually report to the President regarding the engagement of the United States with Cuba to ensure that engagement is advancing the interests of the United States.

      (l)  All activities conducted pursuant to subsections (a) through (k) of this section shall be carried out in a manner that furthers the interests of the United States, including by appropriately protecting sensitive sources, methods, and operations of the Federal Government.

Sec. 4.  Earlier Presidential Actions.

      (a)  This memorandum supersedes and replaces both National Security Presidential Directive-52 of June 28, 2007, U.S. Policy toward Cuba, and Presidential Policy Directive-43 of October 14, 2016, United States-Cuba Normalization.

      (b)  This memorandum does not affect either Executive Order 12807 of May 24, 1992, Interdiction of Illegal Aliens, or Executive Order 13276 of November 15, 2002, Delegation of Responsibilities Concerning Undocumented Aliens Interdicted or Intercepted in the Caribbean Region.

Sec. 5.  General Provisions.

      (a)  Nothing in this memorandum shall be construed to impair or otherwise affect:

           (i)   the authority granted by law to an executive department or agency, or the head thereof; or

           (ii)  the functions of the Director of the Office of Management and Budget relating to budgetary, administrative, or legislative proposals.

      (b)  This memorandum shall be implemented consistent with applicable laws and subject to the availability of appropriations.

      (c)  This memorandum is not intended to, and does not, create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or in equity by any party against the United States, its departments, agencies, or entities, its officers, employees, or agents, or any other person.

      (d)  The Secretary of State is hereby authorized and directed to publish this memorandum in the Federal Register.