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Diplomacy in Action

Cuba Sanctions Changes Announced by President Obama on December 17, 2014


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Cuba Sanctions, Department of the Treasury

Cuba Sanctions, Department of Commerce

On December 17, 2014, President Obama announced historic changes to United States policy toward Cuba, beginning the process of normalization between our countries, and announcing a commitment to ease a number of restrictions on individuals and businesses subject to U.S. jurisdiction with respect to Cuba. The new policy changes announced by President Obama further enhance the United States’ goal of increasing people-to people contact, supporting civil society in Cuba, and empowering the Cuban population through the free flow of information to, from and among the Cuban people.

On January 16, 2015, the U.S. Department of the Treasury and the U.S. Department of Commerce published amendments to the Cuban Assets Control Regulations (CACR) and Export Administration Regulations (EAR) that implemented these changes and became effective immediately. The CACR and EAR are administered by Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) and Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS), respectively.

The implementing changes will allow for continued and enhanced support for the Cuban people. They will enable U.S. citizens to provide more resources and information to empower the Cuban people to become less dependent upon the State. Among other things, these changes:

  • Facilitate authorized travel to Cuba through the issuance of general licenses in all 12 existing categories of travel authorized by law.
  • Allow travel agents and airlines to provide authorized travel and air carrier services to Cuba without the need for a specific license.
  • Authorize the establishment of telecommunications facilities linking the United States or third countries and Cuba, as well as telecommunications facilities in Cuba, and broaden the authorization for transactions incident to the provision of telecommunications services—including Internet connectivity—involving Cuba.
  • Authorize the commercial sale of consumer communications devices and certain related software to Cuban nationals.
  • Expand the range of internet-based services which can be provided to Cuban nationals.
  • Quadruple the quarterly limit on remittances to Cuban nationals (from $500/quarter to $2000/quarter), and authorize unlimited remittances to Cuba to support humanitarian projects, to support the Cuban people through activities of, for example, independent non-governmental organizations, and to support the development of private businesses.
  • Authorize the exportation or reexportation of building materials, equipment, and tools for use by the private sector to construct or renovate private sector buildings; tools and equipment for private sector agricultural activity; and tools, equipment, supplies, and instruments for use by private sector entrepreneurs.
  • Introduce a general policy of approval for exports and reexports of items necessary for the environmental protection of U.S. and international air quality, waters, or coastlines.
  • Allow U.S. depository institutions to establish and maintain correspondent accounts at Cuban financial institutions.
  • Authorize the commercial importation into the United States of certain goods and services produced by independent Cuban entrepreneurs. [Note: This list will be published at: http://www.state.gov/e/eb/tfs/spi/]
  • Allow a number of other activities involving Cuba or Cuban nationals, including those related to providing goods and services to individual Cuban nationals located outside of Cuba, certain global insurance policies, telecommunications, financial services, trade, and shipping.

[Note: Persons subject to U.S. jurisdiction must comply with all of the provisions of the revised regulations; violations of the terms and conditions could result in penalties under U.S. law.]

Since taking office in 2009, President Obama has taken steps to support the ability of the Cuban people to gain greater control over their own lives and determine their country’s future. The additional measures announced on December 17 are intended to more effectively promote change in Cuba that is consistent with U.S. support for the Cuban people and U.S. national security interests. The regulatory changes that took effect on January 15 are part of that effort and will further enhance the United States’ goal of empowering the Cuban population. The United States firmly believes that allowing increased travel, commerce, and the flow of information to, from, and within Cuba will allow the United States to better advance its interests and improve the lives of ordinary Cubans.

A critical focus of the United States’ new course on Cuba will include continued strong support for improved human rights conditions and democratic reforms in Cuba. The United States remains committed to its enduring objective of promoting the emergence of a more prosperous Cuba that respects the universal human rights of all its citizens. The Cuban people deserve the support of the United States and of the entire region to promote and defend democracy under the Inter-American Democratic Charter.

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