Friday, January 14, 2011

White House travel announcement


Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release January 14, 2011


Today, President Obama has directed the Secretaries of State, Treasury, and Homeland Security to take a series of steps to continue efforts to reach out to the Cuban people in support of their desire to freely determine their country’s future.

The President has directed that changes be made to regulations and policies governing: (1) purposeful travel; (2) non-family remittances; and (3) U.S. airports supporting licensed charter flights to and from Cuba. These measures will increase people-to-people contact; support civil society in Cuba; enhance the free flow of information to, from, and among the Cuban people; and help promote their independence from Cuban authorities.

The President believes these actions, combined with the continuation of the embargo, are important steps in reaching the widely shared goal of a Cuba that respects the basic rights of all its citizens. These steps build upon the President’s April 2009 actions to help reunite divided Cuban families; to facilitate greater telecommunications with the Cuban people; and to increase humanitarian flows to Cuba.

The directed changes described below will be enacted through modifications to existing Cuban Assets Control and Customs and Border Protection regulations and policies and will take effect upon publication of modified regulations in the Federal Register within 2 weeks.

Purposeful Travel. To enhance contact with the Cuban people and support civil society through purposeful travel, including religious, cultural, and educational travel, the President has directed that regulations and policies governing purposeful travel be modified to:

· Allow religious organizations to sponsor religious travel to Cuba under a general license.

· Facilitate educational exchanges by: allowing accredited institutions of higher education to sponsor travel to Cuba for course work for academic credit under a general license; allowing students to participate through academic institutions other than their own; and facilitating instructor support to include support from adjunct and part-time staff.

· Restore specific licensing of educational exchanges not involving academic study pursuant to a degree program under the auspices of an organization that sponsors and organizes people-to-people programs.

· Modify requirements for licensing academic exchanges to require that the proposed course of study be accepted for academic credit toward their undergraduate or graduate degree (rather than regulating the length of the academic exchange in Cuba).

· Allow specifically licensed academic institutions to sponsor or cosponsor academic seminars, conferences, and workshops related to Cuba and allow faculty, staff, and students to attend.

· Allow specific licensing to organize or conduct non-academic clinics and workshops in Cuba for the Cuban people.

· Allow specific licensing for a greater scope of journalistic activities.

Remittances. To help expand the economic independence of the Cuban people and to support a more vibrant Cuban civil society, the President has directed the regulations governing non-family remittances be modified to:

· Restore a general license category for any U.S. person to send remittances (up to $500 per quarter) to non-family members in Cuba to support private economic activity, among other purposes, subject to the limitation that they cannot be provided to senior Cuban government officials or senior members of the Cuban Communist Party.

· Create a general license for remittances to religious institutions in Cuba in support of religious activities.

No change will be made to the general license for family remittances.

U.S. Airports. To better serve those who seek to visit family in Cuba and engage in other licensed purposeful travel, the President has directed that regulations governing the eligibility of U.S. airports to serve as points of embarkation and return for licensed flights to Cuba be modified to:

· Allow all U.S. international airports to apply to provide services to licensed charters, provided such airports have adequate customs and immigration capabilities and a licensed travel service provider has expressed an interest in providing service to and from Cuba from that airport.

The modifications will not change the designation of airports in Cuba that are eligible to send or receive licensed charter flights to and from the United States.



Anonymous said...

arrogance, what arrogance. right in the first paragraph the same old propaganda -- in support of their desire to freely determine their country's future.
the united states will not end the embargo etc until cuba succumbs to its demands to change its system. this is how America defines 'freely determine'
oh yeah, hypocrisy too.

Anonymous said...

Dear Mr. Peters,

This is all very good news, Obama, in my opinion, is continuing to adhere to a step by step approach of gradually lifting the embargo in exchange for Cuban government measures that will eventually direct the island towards a democratic transition.

The only limitations that I see in these measures is that:
1- They do not expand the list of goods that can be exported to the island to include the inputs and technology needed to develop the private sector.

2- That they did not authorize maitime travel between the US and Cuba in the form of conference lines and ferries that are needed to transport containers with the above mentioned goods for wholesale markets in Cuba.

These limitations do not allow these measures to help solve the logistical bottleneck that slows down the expansion of the private sector in the island and do not allow the US to recover the increased dollar receipts Cuba will receive from increase US travel and remittances to Cuba.

In a period of US balance of payments deficits, this is a severe shortcoming.

Do you know whether President Obama has the authority to unilaterally allow the above mentioned changes to the embargo regulations or must each of them be approved by Congress?

If the President has such authority, could you try to explain why he did not choose to exercise it.

Do you think that there are ongoing negotiations that might make it advisable to approve such measures as a quid pro quo for the satisfaction of US government conditions?

If the answer is positive, what do you think such conditions might be?

Pantaleon Paticruzado

Anonymous said...

Dear Mr. Peters,

I think that the best way for the US government to aid the Cuban democratic transition would be to help make the growth of the Cuban private sector a success and to stimulate Cuban American investment in the island to:

1- Help accomplish this.
2- Foster the understanding and reconciliation between the Cubans living in the island and in the US.

The Obama administration has already taken some highly commendable measures to further these goals such as:

1- Allowing Cuban Americans to travel to Cuba as often as they want and to stay there as long as they desire.
2- Permitting them to spend as much money in the island as they wish.
3- Authorizing them to invest in the private sector in the island.
4- Liberalizing the regulations to allow more US visits for academic, cultural, educational or religious reasons and for humanitarian aid to the island.


Anonymous said...

Such an approach has several disadvantages.

First of all, if the list of US goods continue to be restricted, it would tend to worsen the US balance of payments because a great deal of the increased dollar earnings of Cuba would be spent in third countries willing to sell them the goods they could not buy in the US.

Second of all they do not contribute to raise the real standard of living of the Cuban people where the Cuban state has a monopoly of the trade of foreign consumer goods and often sell them for up to three times the retail prices individual consumer goods have abroad.

Third of all this flow of dollars do not necessarily contribute to the growth of the private sector in Cuba since there is no assurance that the government will use them to pay for the supply of inputs and technologies or financing needed by the private sector.

In order to overcome these disadvantages, the US government should apply these additional measures:

1- Lift all restrictions on consumer goods, inputs and technologies that can be exported or provided to Cuba by US citizens or businesses.

2- Weapons and technologies having and software of military and repressive use would of course continue to be prohibited.

3- The US would also continue to prohibit:
a- The purchase of Cuban goods and services by US persons or businesses.
b- Providing credit of any sort to the island.

4- The US should authorise:
a) Cargo plane service between the US and Cuba.
b) Maritime conference and ferry lines between the US and Cuba.

5- All US exports to Cuba must use these cargo planes and shipping services and must be billed CIF Cuba,

6- The US should also authorize banking offices in Cuba to allow:
a- Cuban Americans and US citizens authorized to travel to Cuba to extract money from ATM's.
b- Cuban state sector enterprises and Cuban private sector firms to pay for imports from the US.

7- All US exports and services provided to Cuba should be paid through these banking offices.

To be continued

Anonymous said...

8- The continued US exports of specific consumer and productive goods should be made conditional
on their wholesale and retail prices not exceeding CIF prices in Cuban ports + certain % of wholesale and retail margins in pesos or Cuban convertible currency at CADECA rates without dollar conversion taxes included.

9- When a specific US good on the wholesale or retail markets is detected by US personnel to be exceeds its established price limits, the US government must prohibit its export to Cuba until the Cuban government agrees to respect the established wholesale or retail price margins.

10- The Cuban government should agree to keep all US consumer and productive goods stocked in its retail and wholesale markets.

11- If it fails to do so, private island Cuban, Cuban American and American capital should be allowed to invest in the wholesale trade network, independently or creating corporations.

12 The Cuban authorities will control effective demand for these products not by juggling the prices of these products which should always reflect their dollar CIF prices but by varying the CADECA exchange rate between the dollar and Cuban peso or CUC.

13- This manipulation would also allow the balance of payments between both countries to be balanced.

By providing set profit margins for US consumer and productive goods the US could help reduce excessive government profit margins for consumer goods and raise the population's standard of living.

The difference between the profit margin of imputs in the wholesale network and consumer goods would create demand for the goods produced by the private sector and help it to grow.

The United States should also provide fiscal incentives to stimulate Cuban American investment in shipping and air transportation to Cuba and in creating and efficient logistic network to service the private sector in the island.

The authorization of Cuban American financial transfers to the island has already been accomplished.

Now is the time to direct those financial flows to benefit the consumption of the Cuban population and to help develop the private sector in the Cuban economy.

The worst that could happen is that the Cuban government would not agree to take advantage of such US initiatives.

But if it does so, it will pay a very high price in the loss of support of the Cuban population for not accepting an initiative that would raise its standard of living.

Such failure to accept a partial loosening of the embargo based on US conditions could potentially contribute to the Cuban regime's destabilization and force it to reluctantly accept such a US initiative.

Pantaleon Paticruzado