Today the Cuba Study Group released a whitepaper titled: “Restoring Executive Authority Over U.S. Policy Toward Cuba,” calling on the U.S. Government to de-codify the Cuban embargo via the repeal of Helms-Burton and related statutory provisions that deny the United States the flexibility to respond swiftly and strategically to developments in Cuba as they take place.
The document also outlines a series of immediate measures the Executive can take under existing licensing authority to secure and expand the free flow of resources and information to the Cuban people.
“De-codifying the embargo would allow the Executive Branch the flexibility to use the entire range of foreign policy tools at its disposal –including diplomatic, economic, political, legal and cultural– to incentivize change in Cuba. The President would be free to adopt more efficient, targeted policies necessary for pressuring the Cuban leadership to respect human rights and implement political reforms, while simultaneously empowering all other sectors of society to purse their economic well-being and become the authors of their own futures,” reads the document.
The call is the first of its kind by a leading Cuban exile organization in that it recognizes that Helms-Burton has failed to secure international sanctions or advance the cause change in the Island, and is now having the unintended effect of delaying the very economic and political changes it sought to advance.
“This failed policy has only isolated the United States from Cuba and continues to provide the Cuban leadership with a reliable excuse for its economic blunders and human rights abuses. Worst of all, it is now stifling an emerging class of private entrepreneurs and democracy advocates whose rise represents the best hope for a free and open society in Cuba in over 50 years,” stated Carlos Saladrigas, the Group’s chairman.
“We must shift the focus of our policy away from obsessing with hurting the Cuban regime and toward obsessing with helping the Cuban people. It’s what Cuban civil society leaders have been asking us to do for years and what proved to work in Eastern Europe. Let’s empower the Cuban people with the tools, resources and capital necessary to develop a robust civil society that can foster and sustain long-lasting change,” stated Saladrigas.
The whitepaper also recommends eleven measures the Executive Branch can take immediately to safeguard the flow of resources and information into the Island, encourage greater independent economic and political activity, and further empower Cuban civil society. Among these measures is the provision of licenses for the import and export of goods and services between the United States and private entrepreneurs in Cuba.
The Cuba Study Group is made up of business and community leaders with a deeply rooted love for Cuba and the Cuban people. We aim to put our collective experience in leadership skills, problem solving, and wealth creation at the service of the Cuban people to facilitate change, help empower individuals and promote civil society development.
The Group’s mission is to help facilitate a peaceful transition in Cuba leading to a free and open society, respect for human rights and the rule of law, a productive, market-based economy and the reunification of the Cuban nation.
Restoring Executive Authority Over U.S. Policy Toward Cuba
This whitepaper released in February of 2013 calls on the U.S. Government to de-codify the embargo via the repeal of Helms-Burton and related statutory provisions that deny the Executive Branch the flexibility to use the entire range of foreign policy tools at its disposal to incentivize change in Cuba. The document also outlines eleven steps the Executive can take under existing licensing authority to secure and expand the free flow of resources and information to the Cuban people.
In this whitepaper, we acknowledge that the codification of U.S. sanctions toward Cuba under Helms-Burton and its related statutory provisions in the Cuba Democracy Act and Trade Sanction Reform Act have been grossly ineffective in advancing the cause of change in Cuba. We call for the de-codification of these sanctions through the repeal of Helms Burton and its related statutory provisions and for the restoration of Executive authority over U.S. policy toward Cuba. We also outline eleven measures the Executive Branch can take immediately to safeguard the flow of information and resources into the Island, encourage greater independent economic and political activity, and further empower Cuban civil society, including:
1. Modify Remittance and Export Limitations: Increase the $3,000 limit on remittances that can be carried to Cuba by authorized travelers and expand the types of goods that travelers may legally take to Cuba to support micro entrepreneurs. Fewer limitations in these areas will make it easier for U.S. travelers to provide seed capital and in-kind contributions for start-ups.
2. Authorize Travel by General License for NGOs and Allow Them to Open Cuban Bank Accounts: Regulations enacted on January 28, 2011 allow U.S. full- and part-time university staff to travel to Cuba by general license. These regulations also allow U.S.-based academic institutions to open accounts in Cuban banks with funds to support their educational programs in Cuba. A similar license for foundations and NGOs whose mission involves support for micro and small businesses would also help support this growing segment of civil society.
3. Establish New Licenses for the Provision of Services to Cuban Private Entrepreneurs: The President could build on existing authorizations that allow U.S. persons and institutions to pay individual Cuban scholars,musicians and artists for their work. New licenses could extend to additional groups, such as artisans or farmers, and authorize a greater scope of activities such as recording, publication, distribution, etc.
4. Authorize Imports of Certain Goods and Services to Businesses and Individuals Engaged in Certifiably Independent Economic Activity in Cuba: The President could authorize the importation of limited types of Cuban-origin goods and services under general or specific licenses, particularly when such authorizations could be justified as providing support for the Cuban people or democratic change in Cuba. For example, the President could authorize imports from private producers or allow U.S. persons to directly engage and hire Cuban professionals.
5. Authorize Export and Sale of Goods and Services to Businesses and Individuals Engaged in Certifiably Independent Economic Activity in Cuba: Amend existing licensing policy to establish a presumption of approval for specific items deemed to support the U.S.-stated policy goal of promoting independent economic activity on the Island. Since 2000, legislation has allowed the export of a broad range of agricultural products and a limited range of medicines and medical devices. This should be expanded to include other inputs in demand by independent businesses, including—but not limited to—good such as art supplies, food preparation equipment, bookkeeping materials, and basic electronic equipment and software required for retail sales and business administration.
6. Authorize the Sale of Telecommunications Hardware in Cuba: Current U.S. regulations, as amended by the Obama administration in 2009, allow for donations of some telecommunications equipment, thereby recognizing that these goods by themselves do not violate the embargo. The next step should be to allow for the sales of those same goods inside the Island. Along with those provisions, changes should also allow for the provision of general travel licenses for research, marketing and sale of those goods.
7. Authorize the Reestablishment of Ferry Services to Cuba: Current U.S. regulations allow both “aircraft and vessels” to serve Cuba as an exception to the U.S. embargo against the Island.xxii The use of chartered aircraft to transport Cuban-Americans and other licensed U.S. travelers to and from Cuba has long been authorized by the U.S. Department of Treasury. The next step should be to reestablish safe and secure chartered ferry services to transport the same categories of passengers to and from Cuba. Ferry service offers an affordable alternative to airline travel to Cuba and would allow an increase in the amount of goods that Cuban-Americans and other licensed travelers may legally take to Cuba to support their families and micro entrepreneurs.
8. Simplify the Provision of Controlled Commodities, such as Computers and Laptops: Direct the Department of Commerce to provide more detailed guidance for individuals to determine whether or not controlled commodities, such as laptops and printers, qualify under the general export waiver.
9. Allow Licensed U.S. Travelers Access to U.S. Issued Debit, Credit, and Pre-Paid Cards and Other Financial Services While on Authorized Travel in Cuba: Currently, U.S. travelers to Cuba have no access to U.S. bank accounts, credit cards, debit cards or other basic financial services. With few exceptions, U.S. travelers are forced to carry cash with them to Cuba. Allowing U.S. travelers access to electronic payment systems would help ensure their safety and security while being on the Island. Moreover, authorizing new electronic payment systems would facilitate the Administration’s goal of promoting people-to-people contacts and facilitating private economic activity by safeguarding the transfer of money from U.S. residents to relatives and independent entrepreneurs on the island.
10. Review Cuba’s Designation as a State Sponsor of Terrorism: Cuba’s status on the State Department’s list of state sponsors of terrorism has been subject to debate for more than a decade. The President should order a comprehensive, apolitical review to determine whether this designation reflects the reality of Cuba today.
11. Develop an expanded bilateral agenda with a range of specific topics of mutual interest: Agenda should include topics such as the resolution of property claims to help foster an environment of dialogue, problem- solving and trust building— thereby helping to set the stage for an eventual normalization of relations.
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