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The Alliance for Cuba Engagement and Respect (ACERE) commends the Biden administration for finally implementing long overdue regulations — initially announced two years ago — designed to support the growth and operations of Cuba’s independent private sector and increase access to web-based services for all Cubans. 

The measures revealed today allow independent Cuban entrepreneurs to legally open and operate U.S. bank accounts from Cuba; access U.S. internet-based services, software and payment platforms; and benefit from the reauthorization of U-turn transactions, or Cuba-bound remittances and other forms of payment that originate in a third country and pass through the U.S. financial system. By amending existing Treasury Department rules, today’s announcement updates the definition of “self-employed individual” to reflect the growing diversity of the Cuban private sector, and allows for new classes of exports to the U.S. by Cuban private businesses, such as software and mobile applications .

Demands for these changes, among many others, were included in a letter sent by thousands of Cuban private business owners to the Biden administration last year encouraging bold action to support their expansion and facilitate their access to capital, banking and internet-based services. This initiative built off of earlier efforts from Cuban entrepreneurs — later taken up by their Cuban-American friends and family — urging sanctions relief and U.S. support for this growing sector of the Cuban economy.

In light of today’s announcement and the administration’s recent removal of Cuba from the list of countries not cooperating with counter-terrorism efforts, ACERE reiterates its call for the administration to lift Cuba’s designation as a state sponsor of terrorism, resume regular processing of nonimmigrant visas at the U.S. Embassy in Havana, and remove other travel and trade-related restrictions imposed under the Trump administration that serve to undermine the growth of Cuba’s private sector.

Without removing Cuba from the SSOT list, U.S. and foreign financial institutions will continue to face onerous due diligence requirements in implementing these regulatory changes to the extent that the Biden administration hopes. Ending the SSOT designation is necessary to remove barriers, real and perceived, that third-country banks and financial institutions face in providing services to Cuba’s independent entrepreneurs. Cuba’s rescission from the list is also vital to encourage the resumption of European tourism to Cuba, which particularly benefits Cuba’s private AirBnb hosts, restaurateurs, taxi drivers, agricultural producers, cultural workers and others. 

Resuming nonimmigrant visa processing in Havana would help facilitate Cuban entrepreneurs’ travel to the United States for business activities and the marketing of their goods and services, as well as their acquisition of essential U.S. products for use and sale in their businesses on the island.

Furthermore, ACERE encourages the Biden administration to issue a general license authorizing U.S. individuals and companies to invest in and provide other modes of financing for Cuba’s independent private entrepreneurs, as well as explore ways to allow two-way direct correspondent banking between U.S. and Cuban financial entities.

While ACERE expresses concern that these measures took two years to implement after having been announced in May 2022—reportedly over pressure from members of Florida’s congressional delegation—today’s announcement shows that the Biden administration can and should pursue a foreign policy toward Cuba that not only bolsters the operations and market share of U.S. businesses and service providers on the island, but also supports the Cuban people and civil society by removing obsolete, U.S.-imposed restrictions.


The Alliance For Cuba Engagement And Respect

The people of Cuba have long been suffering under an economic, commercial and financial embargo by the United States that places restrictions on food, medicine, and economic support from relatives. President Trump not only reversed President Obama’s move to strengthen relations but further tightened sanctions against Cuba. Despite high hopes, President Biden has so far failed to bring about a substantive improvement in relations. After six decades of failed policy, it is time to demand a different path forward.

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