President Donald Trump’s re-orientation of policy, outlined primarily in his National Security Presidential Memorandum on Strengthening the Policy of the United States Toward Cuba (NSPM-5) was long overdue. NSPM-5, the U.S. Code, and the Cuban Assets Control Regulations will help you filter out the political noise. There is a lot of misinformation being disseminated about what the administration is, and is not, doing.
Unlike what most in the media have reported, included some conservative-leaning news and advocacy outfits, the President took his time and made this announcement in response after a five-month inter-agency assessment of, among other things, the Obama administration’s Cuba policy. One item that was not discussed publicly was Cuba’s removal from the state sponsors of terrorism list. According to colleagues in and out of government, that review may still be ongoing.
As I posted last week before the president’s announcement, Secretary of State Tillerson hinted what would be in store the next few weeks on U.S.-Cuba policy: Enforcement of the law.
As Secretary Tillerson told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee members, if stakeholders want something different, then Congress and the President needed to worth together to change the law. Here are some of the key takeaways from the Trump administration’s new approach toward Cuba:
- Post Havana, the U.S. Embassy in Cuba, will stay open;
- Travel to Cuba by Americans, by plane or boat, will not be cut;
- Remittances were not cut, but will be allowed so long as the remittances are sent consistent with NSPM-5 and U.S.law;
- Americans can stay at any of Airbnb hosted home, so long as the Hosts are not listed in any of the new categories of “specially designated nationals”;
- Telecommunications services, as has been the case since 1992, will continue and, in some cases expanded to allow for more U.S. service providers to provide phone and Internet services to the people of Cuba;
- As has been the case for decades, food, medicine, and agricultural exports will be allowed.
The listing of the Cuban military or MINFAR, as well as the intelligence agencies such as the MININT, to the specially designated nationals (SDNs) watch list administered by the Treasury Department Office of Foreign Assets Controls (OFAC) is one of the more significant regulatory changes. Subject to a few exceptions including travel, persons subject to U.S. law will be banned from doing business with any persons or companies in Cuba, or anywhere in the world, connected to the MINFAR or MININT.
So what is next? On the U.S. side of the ledger, several executive branch agencies must report to the President within 30 days on a variety of statutory guideposts required for the easing of U.S. economic sanctions on Cuba. Cuba, of course, will fail on probably all counts. These reports will include an assessment of whether Cuba has made progress on resolving U.S. certified claims against Cuba.
Cuba owes more than $8 billion to U.S. taxpayers for homes, farms, and businesses it stole from Americans but never paid for. Cuba is also hiding several fugitives from U.S. law including a terrorist who murdered a New Jersey state trooper.
Within 90 days the Treasury Department, Commerce Department, and the Department of Transportation will issue new regulations with respect to Cuba. The Attorney General will also issue a report on the total number of terrorists and fugitives hiding out in Cuba, as well as Cuba’s ongoing connections to non-state and state actors who support international terrorism.
The most important aspect of NSPM-5 is that the new ” … policy will be guided by the national security and foreign policy interests of the United States ….”. This, in turn, will help foster a more sober legal, regulatory, and policy climate for persons subject to U.S. law so that they can make informed decisions about engagement in the Cuba marketplace, with Cuban nationals, or transactions involving property in which Cuba or a Cuban national has an interest.