Press Release: Questions and Concerns on the U.S. Department of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) declaration about Cuban assets regulations

Press release

Press Release: Questions and Concerns on the U.S. Department of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) declaration about Cuban assets regulations

Contact: John Suarez (612) -367-6845 and Janisset Rivero 786-208-6056
 
Center for a Free Cuba
 
Washington, DC, May 28th, 2024
 
While we welcome in principle the objective to “increase support for the Cuban people and independent private sector entrepreneurs”, do the announced policies achieve that? The devil is in the details.
 
THERE IS NO ECONOMIC FREEDOM IN CUBA BUT A FRAUDULENT CHANGE TAKING PLACE

 

Despite the hype surrounding micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises (aka MIPYMEs), no steps have been taken to create a meaningful opening in Cuba’s agricultural sector, i.e. Cuban farmers markets, as was done during previous crises in the 1980s that domestically handled the food security problem. The “reform” was applied for a short period of time until the immediate emergency passed, and agriculture returned under state control. The most significant Cuban entrepreneurs, the farmers, remain in prison; those who dare to sell their chickens, mangoes, and beans to their neighbors, thus violating the government’s “acopio”; which is what the official monopoly on agricultural production is called. There is no economic freedom in Cuba.
Their imprisonment and similar measures resulted in a significant decline in production, and led the regime to import chicken from New Orleans. Today, fewer farmers dare to commit the same “crimes”. If George Orwell were alive today, he would have a field day with the Treasury Department describing these enterprises connected to regime elites as “Independent Private Sector Entrepreneurs” and providing more resources to emerging Cuban oligarchs connected to the dictatorship as  an “increase” in “support for the Cuban people.”
 
That is why Cubans go to prison for reading “Animal Farm”, a book much feared by the Cuban authorities. It is also the reason Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas was murdered, together with Harold Cepero, on July 22, 2012 for denouncing these “reforms” for what they are: “fraudulent change”.
THERE SHOULD ALSO BE NATIONAL SECURITY CONCERNS FOR THE U.S.
 
What steps will the Treasury Department take to ensure that they can exclude members of the dictatorship, the military, the Ministry of the Interior and the Communist Party from exploiting these openings?
 
Cuba is not Costa Rica. It is a state sponsor of terrorism, having close ties to Iran, North Korea, and Syria all of which have been designated as such by the U.S. State Department in 2024.
Havana was caught smuggling tons of weapons to North Korea violating international sanctions in 2013.
 
The Cuban dictatorship is also a close ally of Moscow and Beijing. Over 3,000 Cubans in Russian uniforms are currently fighting in Ukraine to advance Putin’s objectives. .
 
Russia has been subjected to international sanctions in response to their war of aggression. Havana is coordinating with Moscow to help Russia evade these sanctions. Over 100 Russian companies have started operating in Cuba over the past year.
 
TWO ITEMS IN PARTICULAR RAISE CONCERNS:
 
1. OFAC is authorizing what they describe “as independent private sector entrepreneurs who are Cuban nationals” to be granted access “to open, maintain, and remotely use U.S. bank accounts, including through online payment platforms, to conduct authorized or exempt transactions, whether the independent private sector entrepreneur is physically located in the United States, Cuba, or another country”.   
 
2. “OFAC is reinstating an authorization for ‘U-turn’ transactions, which are funds transfers that originate and terminate outside the United States where neither the originator nor beneficiary is subject to U.S. jurisdiction.  OFAC previously removed the authorization for “U-turn” transactions in September 2019.  This reinstated authorization is intended to help the Cuban people, including independent private sector entrepreneurs, by facilitating remittances and payments for transactions in the Cuban private sector that are authorized by various provisions of the CACR”. Under this reinstated authorization, U.S banks are authorized to process “U-turn” funds transfers in which Cuba or a Cuban national has an interest, provided that neither the originator nor the beneficiary is a person subject to U.S. jurisdiction.  
Will these policies open more access for Russia to evade international sanctions, and provide them with more resources at a critical junction in the illegal war against Ukraine?  Will they also create opportunities for Havana to coordinate with other state terror sponsors in Tehran, Pyongyang, and Damascus in sponsoring or promoting terrorism?
TWO QUESTIONS ABOUT A POTENTIAL OPPORTUNITY
Will average Cubans be able to gain access to encryption and circumvention technologies to obtain a more secure, and uncensored access to the internet with regulations clarified for access to these technologies with greater ease?  Or will U.S. software vendors be more transparent about denying users on the island access to messaging apps like Signal and VPNs due to Havana’s restrictions? For example Signal is also banned in China, Iran, and Uzbekistan.