White House Explores Regulatory Ways To Create Opportunities In Cuba
AUGUST 28, 2015 5:06 AM ET
The Obama administration is considering ways to further ease travel and
restrictions on Cuba. There is still an embargo in place and it would
take an act of Congress to lift that.
The president, however, does have ways to make it easier for Americans
to go to Havana or to sell goods there. A lot has changed already since
the White House announced its new approach last year.
Washington, D.C. lawyer Robert Muse managed to get a U.S. government
license to start ferry services to Cuba. He describes the process this way:
"As Ernest Hemingway wrote about going bankrupt, it happened both slowly
and then suddenly. I had applied for the license several years ago and
it just sat there in a kind of policy void."
Once President Obama announced an opening with Cuba late last year,
everything changed. "Out of the blue," Muse says, "suddenly the license
That doesn't mean this is a done deal. Cuba still has to agree to allow
ferries to bring people and goods from Miami. But at least on the U.S.
side, he says, it is getting easier to get licenses, especially for
sales to Cuba's small, but emerging private sector.
"That could be anything from a pizza oven to restaurant lighting to
napkins and chairs. Anything you could think of. So the authority
exists," Muse says.
He'd like to see the Obama administration go further to boost trade. So
would Sarah Stephens of the Center for Democracy in the Americas, who
has taken U.S. lawmakers and others to Cuba for many years.
"One thing that we are seeing is that many of these companies, U.S.
companies that are going down to learn what they can about the market
and Cuban priorities are coming back and applying for licenses and
getting them," Stephens says.
She's asked the Treasury Department to change the regulations for travel
too to make it easier for individuals to go — as long as they are on
educational, cultural, religious or family visits, as required by U.S. law.
"If individuals are going to Cuba, the money they are spending is going
directly into the hands of individual Cubans and that's really the
goal," Stephens says.
Not so says Frank Calzon of the Center for a Free Cuba.
"The folks who travel to Cuba today are subsidizing the Cuban military
and the security forces because the Cuban travel industry is completely
controlled by the Cuban military. That's a fact," he says.
Despite warmer relations with the U.S., he says Cuban authorities still
routinely round up and beat up dissidents. He argues that having more
Americans going to Cuba or doing business there won't improve things for
"The contrary happens," Calzon says. American corporations that are in
Cuba become lobbyists of the Cuban dictatorship because they are afraid
of what the Cuban government can do to their investment.
Calzon argues that President Obama has already gone too far to undermine
an embargo that was put in place by Congress.
But Muse, the D.C. lawyer, says the president can still carve out
exceptions, and should before he leaves office.
"The president can leave the U.S. embargo on Cuba like a piece of cheese
that's far more holes than cheese," he adds.
The White House will only say that it "continues to explore regulatory
changes to provide new opportunities for American citizens and U.S.
Source: White House Explores Regulatory Ways To Create Opportunities In
Cuba : NPR -