Mr. President Biden,
Almost a year and half has passed since many of us sent you a letter with a similar request in November 2021. Soon, a year would have passed from the time when you announced measures to support the Cuban private sector in May 2022.
We write once more, as Cuban entrepreneurs, self-employees, business owners and cooperative members, part of the rapidly growing Cuban private sector. We are doing our best to build a future in our country, to create opportunities for ourselves, our employees and families. We urge you again to fulfill your campaign promise to resume the path of engagement and normalization, and to fulfill your more recent promise of supporting the Cuban private sector. We would like to reassert that your administration ought to start by recognizing the significant harm that the sanctions imposed by the Trump Administration and that your administration has maintained have brought over our businesses, families and communities. In fact, your own Administration recognizes that U.S. sanctions against Cuba have caused the current economic crisis facing our country. A January 9, 2023 Notice by Department of Homeland Security report states, Cuban latest migration wave has 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.”
We welcome promised support in the form of “greater access to U.S. internet services, applications, and e-commerce platforms”, “expanding access to microfinance and training” and “options for electronic payments” that were announced in May 16, 2022. We have not seen real progress in any of these areas. More importantly, your Administration should consider that our business success is greatly damaged by existing U.S. policy towards Cuba, which hinders our day-to-day business operations and reduces demand for our goods and services.
Current travel restrictions and inclusion of Cuba in the State Department’s States Sponsors of Terrorism (SSOT) List limit the flow of U.S. and European visitors, and have significantly reduced demand for our products, directly and indirectly. Three of the activities accounting for most of the employment in the private sector are precisely lodging, eateries, and transportation, which suffer directly from low U.S. and international tourism, and in turn reduce demand for other businesses.
The closure of non-immigrant visa consular services has diminished our ability to travel to the U.S. and directly acquire needed supplies. Cancellation of bank accounts in the U.S. for some Cuban small business owners has made financial transactions much more difficult and costly, including for receiving online payments. Inclusion of Cuba in SSOT list and measures taken against financial institutions continue to prevent e-payment and e-commerce platforms such as Paypal from providing services to us. Maintenance of the Trump Administration removal of the waiver for Helms Burton’s Title III, discourage potential U.S. and international investors in our businesses.
The Cuban private sector has grown very rapidly since new rules for self-employed, micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) and cooperatives were passed in August 2021. We are now over 550,000 self-employed workers 7,500 private MSMEs and 5,000 coops employing near 35% of economically active population. Despite some remaining legal and regulatory limitations to our business operations, we can receive foreign investment from our family members and businesses abroad. We are independent from the Cuban government, as has been recently stressed by Benjamin Ziff, Chargé d’Affaires of the United States Embassy in Havana, Cuba .
It is incomprehensible and inhumane that in the middle of a domestic economic crisis exacerbated by the current global crisis, more than half into your term, your administration –which repeatedly claims to support the Cuban people and to support the private sector– has, for the most part, continued with Trump-era cruel and failed policies that directly target our livelihoods, and directly and indirectly also greatly affect our businesses.
You, as the President, still have the ability to immediately undo most of the measures taken by the Trump Administration. We commend you for making some progress with reopening some travel, the Embassy in Havana to some extent, and remittances, which were three of our requests in our previous letter. But this progress is still very limited compared to the needs and rights of both Cuban and American citizens, which continue to be disregarded. Unfortunately, our fourth demand remains without progress—it is imperative that Cuba is taken out of the SSOT if our businesses are to thrive.
It was proven during your tenure as Vice President that an US-Cuba policy allowing for increased travel, telecom and banking services helped us substantially. We ask again that you listen to us —members of the Cuban private sector—and not to a small community of Cuban-Americans who benefit from making US-Cuba policy a domestic, electoral issue despite having clear, immovable political allegiances.
We urge you to consider the following measures that will truly benefit our businesses, families and employees:
- Allowing financial transactions that have Cuban private entities as final destination and permitting Cuban private businesses to operate services of American fintech companies such as PayPal and the like.
- Allowing Cuban private companies and entrepreneurs to open and manage banking accounts in the U.S. territory, without requiring that Cuban entrepreneurs remain in U.S. territory to be able to operate them.
- Restating multi-entry business visas for Cuban private business owners and entrepreneurs.
- Restore travel to Cuba for U.S. citizens and residents under educational and people to people licenses.
- Establishing a general license allowing U.S. citizens and businesses to invest and/or trade with Cuban private businesses.
- Amend Cuban Assets Control Regulations, 31 CFR part 515 to:
- a. Include private Cuban Micro, Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (MSMEs) and Cooperatives among the references to private businesses.
- b. Expand the reach of the general licenses for U.S. businesses to export all their products and services to Cuban private businesses.
- c. Expand the scope of goods and services from Cuban private businesses which can be imported to the United States.
- Removal of Cuba from the SSOT List, which is necessary in order to achieve all that is stated above in 1, 2, 5, 6 and 7.
IF YOU ARE A U.S. BUSINESS OR BUSINESS ORGANIZATION, SIGN HERE
IF YOU ARE A CUBA-BASED PRIVATE BUSINESS, SIGN HERE
 Biden Administration Expands Support to the Cuban People, Press Statement May 16, 2022 https://www.state.gov/biden-administration-expands-support-to-the-cuban-people/