FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 11, 2023
Washington, DC – Nearly 9,000 Cuban and U.S. private business owners or representatives of around 270 business organizations representing thousands of businesses sent a letter to President Biden this morning. Among a list of seven concrete policy and normative changes, their main demand is to take Cuba off the U.S. State Sponsors of Terrorism (SSOT) list. Cuba’s designation on the SSOT list was unequivocally rejected as unmerited by the Obama Administration, yet President Trump reinstated the designation right before the end of his term.
Despite no evidence that Cuba is a country that sponsors international terrorism, and the grave impact of this designation on financial transactions for Cuban and U.S. businesses, and even humanitarian organizations, the Biden Administration continues to maintain Cuba’s SSOT designation. The Biden State Department alludes to the same spurious claims used by his predecessor, even though they have no merit and Cuban authorities cooperate with U.S. security agencies in the fight against terrorism, as evidenced by the recent meeting between U.S. and Cuban officials on counter-terrorism cooperation.
The Alliance for Cuba Engagement and Respect (ACERE), a grassroots organization advocating for an end to the U.S. embargo of Cuba, delivered this letter to President Biden and various officials in his Administration today. This is the second letter from Cuban business owners to President Biden urging him to listen to them, who are severely and directly affected by the continuing sanctions on the island. A first letter, also facilitated by ACERE, was sent in November 2021 with four concrete demands, all of which have seen limited progress except for the SSOT designation.
This letter has 8,900 signatures by Cuban business owners from 239 private businesses, cooperatives, self-employed, etc. It was also signed by 30 U.S. businesses and business organizations, including large national trade associations such as the U.S. Tour Operators Association (USTOA), National Cooperative Business Association (NCBA CLUSA), and Latino Farmers and Ranchers International, Inc. that represent thousands of businesses and millions of U.S. business owners.
The first goal of this letter is to remind the Biden Administration of its May 16, 2022 promises to support the Cuban private sector, a pledge which largely remains unfulfilled despite the president’s authority to immediately implement the promised changes.
Secondly, those promised measures are extremely limited and, as suggested by the letter, there are other concrete measures that the Biden Administration can easily and quickly implement if it truly seeks to support the Cuban private sector.
Lastly, this letter hopes to support positive legislation such as the bipartisan S.653 Freedom to Export to Cuba Act, reintroduced in the Senate by Representatives Klobuchar, Moran, Murphy, Marshall, and Warren; and to stop very dangerous legislation such as bicameral versions of the FORCE Act that would remove power away from the executive to decide on Cuba’s SSOT designation, a move with similar aims as those achieved with the Helms-Burton Act.
Cuba’s private business sector has been growing rapidly despite the domestic and international crises, as the Cuban government increasingly adopts market-based policies. In fact, the private sector now employs an estimated 35% of the island’s economically active population, including some 550,000 self-employed workers, 5,000 cooperatives, and some 7,500+ private small- and medium-enterprises registered since September 2021, a number that continues to grow rapidly.
The Biden Administration claims to support the Cuban private sector, yet has taken no significant steps to support them, including the measures promised a year ago. Biden’s Cuba policy remains trapped in ill-advised domestic and foreign policy considerations, evidenced by the fact that most of the 240 sanctions put in place by the Trump administration are still in place.
These sanctions, on top of the over 60-year-old U.S. embargo on Cuba, hurt private business operations directly and indirectly by reducing demand and limiting access to supplies and investments. In fact, the administration’s very own Department of Homeland Security recognized in a statement on January 9, 2023 that the current economic crisis and migration wave from the island have been “driven by three key factors: First, Cuba is facing its worst economic crisis in decades due to the lingering impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, high food prices, and economic sanctions” (italics added).
The letter sent today lifts the voices of Cuban and U.S. businesses that are negatively impacted by current U.S. policy towards Cuba and would significantly benefit from a change of policy that truly allows for increased trade and investment. ACERE, together with the businesses, urges President Biden to consider their seven demands, particularly the withdrawal of Cuba’s SSOT designation, which is the primary obstacle for the success of the Cuban private sector. All these demands can be implemented quickly and easily by President Biden, without the need for congressional approval, simply if he chooses to listen to the very people and businesses he claims to support. Cuban and U.S. private sectors have told Biden, “Support us, remove Cuba from the Terrorism list.”
For more information contact ACERE members:
Manny Ramirez (813) 407-3551 [email protected]
Manuel Gomez (202) 262-3981 [email protected]
You can read the Cuba and U.S. Private Business Sectors Letter to the Biden Administration about Support to the Cuban Private Sector here: https://acere.org/u-s-business-sector-letter-to-president-biden-about-support-to-cuban-private-sector/