Lifting the Cuban Embargo: Feds Announce Laxer Rules for Travel, Trade with Cuba

Treasury Department and Commerce Department announce new rules requiring less permission for trade with and travel in Cuba


Ed Yourdon/Foter

Last month President Obama announced the U.S. and Cuba would work toward restoring diplomatic relations. While a lifting of the trade embargo will require action by Congress this week the federal government announced a number of rules changes related to travel and trade with Cuba.

The most significant rules changes come from the Treasury Department (pdf). U.S. travel agents and airlines, for example, will be allowed to "provide authorized travel and carrier services" to Cuba without a specific license from the Office of Foreign Asset Control, while the definition of authorized travel is expanded to include individual educational, journalistic, religious, professional, and humanitarian activities, all without requiring specific licensing. "General tourism" remains prohibited because it's banned by law. Some of the barriers to American banking and telecommunications services in Cuba have been lifted as well, and the limit on remittances to Cuba has quadrupled.

The Commerce Department's Bureau of Industry and Security, meanwhile, announced new regulations connected to export policies. According to a statement from the Commerce secretary, the "regulations will change export policy and authorize the flow of certain goods and services to Cuba without a license, to spur private sector activity and encourage entrepreneurship in Cuba." A statement from the Treasury secretary added that the new rules should "promote political and economic freedom for the Cuban people." Both the Commerce and Treasury secretaries characterized U.S. policies toward Cuba as outdated. The U.S. Congress is not expected to lift any of the statutory restrictions on trade with and travel to Cuba this year.

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  1. I don’t see how you could travel to Cuba right now in good conscience. The entire island is nothing but a slave plantation. Everyone in Cuba, absent a few of the top Communists, is enslaved by the government and lives in abject oppression and misery. Given that, how is going to a resort in Cuba any different than visiting a Florida beach resort if the CSA had won the civil war and still maintained slavery using the slaves to staff their resorts?

    And lets not forget the very same American leftists who are now dying to go to Cuba were boycotting South Africa in the late 1980s and many of them support boycotting Israel today. Clearly not everyone is that bad. Reason never supported either of those boycotts and thus doesn’t look hypocritical supporting travel to Cuba now.

    Regardless, I don’t think I personally would want to do it. There are a lot of nice places in the world. Why give my money to the Castros?

    1. Since I’m an evil bastard, that’s not a compelling argument.

      I’m more persuaded by the fact that I don’t like heat, I don’t like sun and I don’t speak Spanish.

      1. There is that. If you don’t have a problem with slavery or supporting it, then there isn’t a problem.

        1. If you want the people of Cuba to have a better standard of living, appreciate capitalism, and demand a new government, then traveling there and buying stuff from the locals is probably the best way to achieve that goal.

          1. The problem is that going there doesn’t do that. If I could go there and do business with the Cuban people, I would agree. But that is not how it is going to work. Going there will mean going to a resport owned and operated by the Cuban government and for the benefit of the Cuban government and that is staffed by people enslaved by the Cuban government.

            So my going there will do no more to introduce the Cuban people to capitalism than my going to a Antebellum Plantation and spending a few days would have introduced the slaves who worked there to capitalism. All my going there will do is enrich the Cuban people’s oppressors.

            1. Why do you have to go to a resort and stay there?

              The Cuban government has started to allow people to do business in a limited sort of way. Like turning their living room into a restaurant dining room and selling meals to customers. I’d be finding one of those places to eat instead of staying at the resort.

              And even if you do stay at the resort, you’re still providing the locals with jobs that they may not have otherwise had. How is that bad for them?

              1. First, you are not providing the locals with jobs anymore than staying at a plantation provides the slaves with jobs. Everyone in Cuba makes a maximum of like $12 or $20 a month, gets to purchase only what the government allows them, and works exactly where the government tells them. They are slaves. Working at the resort won’t make them any better off.

                Second, to the extent that you could somehow frequent businesses that are not owned by the government, then yes, you would be doing some good. But it is unclear to me how much you could actually do that. Understand, any money you don’t give directly to a Cuban citizen is just money you are giving to the Castros.

                1. It’s called the informal market.

                  1. And why do you think the Cuban government is going to let foreign visiters frequent that market? Out of kindness?

                    Will it be possible to break the rules and go an do business with Cubans in ways not under control of the government? I would imagine so. When you do that, however, you are both risking your own freedom and the freedom of the Cuban with whom you do business with. There is no way the Cuban government as it currently stands will ever allow the Cuban people the freedom to engage in uncontrolled commerce with foreign visitors. The commerce that happens is going to be completely under the control and done for the benefit of the government. Any other commerce will have to be done in opposition to the government and at the risk of being imprisoned by that government.

                    Cuba is one of the worst and most oppressive governments on earth. There is no way it is going to work any other way.

                    1. The Saudi empire thanks you for driving your car.

                      Thank you for funding our public floggings that follow Friday prayers and keeping our women off the roads.

                    2. The Saudi empire thanks you for driving your car.

                      Oil is fungible. Analogy fail.

                    3. Been there several times. You can travel freely and participate in the local market economy some of which is completely independent of the government. Many Cubans rent rooms (which is taxed and regulated by the government) which provides a relatively nice income and quality of life. The art, culture, food and friendliness of the people is second to none in the Caribbean. Trade not war.

                    4. Trade not war.

                      + 1 Bastiat

                2. But it is unclear to me how much you could actually do that.

                  Watching Bourdain travel to Cuba was a real eye opener. There is some capitalism going on over there. It’s limited, but it exists. People are now allowed to buy and sell goods and services (in a limited fashion), and keep some of the profits. If I was to visit Cuba I’d be hunting those people down and seeing what they had to offer. It would certainly help the people a lot more than boycotting them.

                  1. It would certainly help the people a lot more than boycotting them.

                    Not if doing business with them helped their oppressors more. Also, I wouldn’t take the Bourdaine show at face value. It may be true, but it also might be a complete lie. That film crew was only there because t he government let them be there and they only saw what the government let them see. I am sure the government wants people to think there is some freedom in Cuba. That doesn’t mean there really is.

                    1. +1 Potemkin Village

                    2. Not if doing business with them helped their oppressors more.

                      Really. So you oppose raising the standard of living of the Cuban people if it’s possible that the government gets a piece of the money.
                      Well, that makes sense. You have shown yourself to be quite eager to punish the people of a country if you don’t like their government.
                      So it is logical that you would oppose helping the people of Cuba if the government benefited as well.

                      I just happen to disagree.

                      It may be true, but it also might be a complete lie.

                      If it is indeed true that there has been some relaxation of government control over the Cuban economy, and it is true that as a tourist I could buy goods and services from those entrepreneurs, then by golly that would be the best way to raise their standard of living, help them to appreciate capitalism, and encourage them to demand change from their government.

                    3. Sarcasmic, time will tell. If it turns out that going to Cuba really does promote actual business there and do things besides stuff the Castros pockets, I will change my opinion. I am just skeptical that will be the case.

                    4. I know the guy that arranged and guided their visit. He says he had no restrictions whatsoever placed by the Cuban government. Not on where they travelled, who AB spoke with or what he filmed. Doesn’t sound too oppressive to me. Besides, if you know AB you know he wouldn’t follow anyone’s instructions anyway.

              2. Why do you have to go to a resort and stay there?

                I dunno. Ask the Castros. They’re the ones who control what you do when you are on their island.

                1. You don’t have to stay at a resort. You really think they give a damn where a few Americans go and what they do? Wow, you’ve been reading too many spy novels. BTW, when you go, pay the extra $25 for VIP service at the airport….you walk right through customs and have a drink in the VIP lounge while waiting for your luggage…and then they walk you to the door and wish you a pleasant visit. And the miniskirt uniforms the women wear make the communist indoctrination quite painless. Geez…

                2. Contact with the local people is a start. I went to Myanmar (Burma) in 1997 (as a tourist/backpacker) and the local people (and even the police) were very friendly. I went to Somalia in 1982 (not as a tourist, but we weren’t allowed to wear uniforms in town) and the people were friendly and hospitable. They would often invite us into their homes for tea.

    2. Much depends on how freely you can give cash to locals in exchange for goods and services without a government intermediary.

    3. I think the appropriate comparison is to all the Democrats that used to oppose Most Favored Nation status for China whenever that vote came up for renewal.

      The real reason the Democrats were against trade with China was because their labor union constituents didn’t want to compete with Chinese labor.

      The fact is that trade does a lot to liberalize a country. It’s certainly not the complete solution, but to whatever extent China has liberalized, it’s done so to some extent because of trade. Treating your own people like shit is bad for business.

      We’ll see the same thing happen in Cuba.

      There is also the transformation in our security relationship. No question that China is still somewhat of a threat, but their economy is so dependent on trade with the United States that if they started a war tomorrow, the CCP might not survive the internal turmoil a break in our trade relationship would probably cause.

      We might see Cuba become more like that, too. I only wish the Obama Administration was smart enough to try to create a similar trade relationship with Iran. The more belligerent and dangerous a country is to the United States, the more we need to form a trade relationship with them.

      Nothing aligns the foreign policy interests of two countries like a trade relationship.

      P.S. Look at all those hot rods just screaming to be rebuilt!

      1. Those same arguments were made about South Africa. South Africa is almost a perfect analogy to this one only with the side’s reversed. When we were talking about South Africa, the left was convinced that shunning them was the only moral thing to do and the right largely made the argument that trade was the only way to get them to change.

        Both sides are total hypocrites on the subject. If trade was the way to get South Africa to change, then it ought to help with Cuba. And if trading with South Africa was immoral, it is doubly immoral to do so with Cuba, a regime with a much worse human rights record.

        Both sides have a dirty secret neither will admit to having. Their position in each case depended on how much the government in question really bothered them. The Right largely were not that bothered by white Africans oppressing black ones and was largely sympathetic to the old South African government. And the Left really isn’t bothered by Communist oppression and is largely sympathetic to any communist or socialist government not matter how awful it is.

        1. “Both sides are total hypocrites on the subject. If trade was the way to get South Africa to change, then it ought to help with Cuba. And if trading with South Africa was immoral, it is doubly immoral to do so with Cuba, a regime with a much worse human rights record.”

          Some of the justifications they spouted on television were wrong. The left was especially opposed to trade with South Africa because of apartheid, and institutional racism was (and is) especially heinous to a lot of people on the left–if opposing trade with South Africa was wrong, they didn’t want to be right.

          Regardless, the fact is that trade tends to align people’s interests–regardless of the rhetoric. South Africa capitulated, and are you saying that wasn’t in any way related to wanting a normal trade relationship with the outside world?

          The fact that South Africa was fighting Soviet and Cuban backed communists in Angola might have had something to do with the American right wanting to maintain a positive relationship with South Africa, too. But even if they were lying about why they really wanted a trade relationship, that doesn’t mean that what they were saying about the impact of trade wasn’t true.

          Just because they tried to frame O.J., doesn’t mean he wasn’t guilty, right?

          1. No Ken. South Africa shows that boycotts can work. They only work when there is a government that gives a shit about a significant portion of the population. The old South African government dind’t care about the blacks but they did care about the white minority. So when the boycotts really started hurting that minority, the government capitulated.

            They don’t’ work in a place like Cuba because the Cuban government doesn’t care about any significant portion of its population. No harm, no matter how widespread or great inflicted on the Cuban people is going to get the Cuban government to care or change.

            That still doesn’t get the Left off the hook. For them boycotting South Africa was about more than just change. It was a moral cause. They called anyone who visited there an immoral person who supported racism. As usual, they totally rejected the idea that anyone could hold a contrary view to theirs for anything but base and evil reasons.

            With Cuba they are all for trading. The reason is not that they have changed. They haven’t. The reason is that they don’t really object to the Cuban government and think oppression done in the name of communism and socialism just isn’t very objectionable.

            1. You seem to be preoccupied with what people’s justifications are.

              I don’t think boycotts work as well at instigating change–not as well as trade relationships are pulling two countries interests together.

              Boycotts can work to drive people to the negotiating table.

              But, again, I don’t care what the left uses to justify anything. I’m not talking about whether the bullshit the left spouts shows that the left spouts bullshit. I’m talking about real life.

              The more of a trade relationship we have with Cuba, the less of a security problem Cuba will be. …and I don’t really care about whether that happens to be what the left is spouting right now–maybe sometimes they tell the truth by accident. So what?

              I’m not going to pretend they’re wrong when they’re correct–just because they’re the left and their motives aren’t pure.

              1. Boycotts work d great in South Africa. But as i said they only worked because The government at some level cared about its people. That is not true of Cuba

                And you are completely missing the point. I am not called ng the lett wrong about Cuba. I am calling them hypocrites who really dont care when communist governments oppress their people. That being true says nothing about the virtues of trading with Cuba. It just point out how aweful the left is

                And you were clearly wrong about trade and boycotts in regards to South Africa. The boucott changed the country. your positoon is consistent for sure. That bowever doesnt make it any less reflexive and unthinking. If ending the embargo is gping to make Cuba

    4. Well, I imagine a lot of people would go there to have sex with Cuban women.

      1. TIWTANFL

      2. It’s not like you can’t get that in Miami already.

    5. None of that is really my problem John. If I go to Cuba I am not responsible for the fate of Cubans. Further, the tips I hand out will empower them individually.

      1. Further, the tips I hand out will empower them individually.

        Only if they are allowed to keep those, which they clearly wouldn’t be. It is a free country and you should be allowed to go. If you want to write the Castros a big check so they can some more money to buy guns and build prisons and continue to enslave the people of Cuba, that should be your right to do so. But don’t kid yourself into thinking that is not what you will be doing.

        1. Che’s dead. Fidel’s dying. Raul’s pretty long in the tooth. Shit changes when the old guard dies. Communist Vietnam has a lot of capitalists now, and a lot of fun nightlife. China’s the same.

  2. Too soon? Nah. All of the people who had their property expropriated and fled to Miami are dying off. Their experience doesn’t matter any more.

    1. I feel bad for those people, but that is their problem not mine. Regardless, I don’t see why I should ever give a dime of my money to the assholes who run Cuba.

  3. Some hot rodder could make a fortune buying up all those old cars and reselling them in the U.S.

    1. That is what they say. Of course, since Cubans can’t buy new cars, they might not be as interested in selling as you might think.

      1. They actually can buy new cars in Cuba. Of course, they are crap Chinese cars, but they can buy them.

    2. Those cars have been driven to death. I doubt many of them would be more than parts cars in a custom shop.

      1. R C Dean|1.15.15 @ 3:29PM|#
        “Those cars have been driven to death. I doubt many of them would be more than parts cars in a custom shop.”

        Under the paint and the bondo and the Russian lawn mower engine, you can find original rust!

    3. No.

      99% of the 50s and 60s cars are so modified to keep them running during the embargo that they have little value in the collecter car market as is. But, since no auto imports have been allowed on their island, prices are very high for a car that runs.

      To buy them and take them off the island would cost too much. You would have to trade them a more modern car ( illegal for now ) or pay so much for a non-standard modified car that the rebuilting cost would kill the profit margin.

      With certain exceptins of course if you are able to locate a certain super select model.

  4. Jezebel is so hot right now thinking about the poverty tourism. With bonus Canadian America-hate.

    The Gaysian
    I am, however, slightly concerned about the historical preservation of character and buildings in Cuba, especially with such a huge influx of tourists. I do not want Cuba to suddenly turn into the next Hawaii.

    I’d also say go now before the developers build massive resorts and turn the island into a construction zone. You can still find inns and bed-breakfasts for 59-79 dollars a night.

    1. Actually, deposing the royal dynasty and turning Cuba into the next Hawaii would be fantastic for all involved – except the Castros and their minions.

    2. $60 a night in Cuba? Shit I can find that with Internet and amenities in Florida! These people are nearly as crazy as the old Cubans who really DO want to go back and become the Dons of Cuba.

      1. Actually $50-60 in a nice area of Havana for a two bedroom suite…..$30 for a B&B in more rural areas. And the cultural experience beats Florida any day.

    3. If I go to some third world country and pay a woman to have sex with me, that is human trafficking and exploitation. If I go to some third world country to gawk at people living in poverty and in fact do what I can to get the government there to leave those people in poverty so I can continue to travel there and gawk, that is totally different. That is just me respecting native cultures.

      1. Or you could go there, meet people, and enjoy yourself, just like going to Canada, Mexico, or Brazil.

    4. I am, however, slightly concerned about the historical preservation of character and buildings in Cuba

      Fuck the people, I want a museum in place!

      1. It is worse than that Mexican. The truth is that the Castros have done everything they can to destroy old Havana. The entire city stands as an example of how good the country once was and how badly those animals have fucked it up. Its existence shows the entire Cuban government to be based on a lie. So they have done nothing to preserve it and done all kinds of things to destroy it.

        The only hope for old Havana is for the Castros and everyone around them to finally get their tickets to rot in hell and for the country to open up to capitalism. If that ever happens, old Havana, or whatever is left of it, will be one of the country’s most valuable assets and it will most certainly be preserved.

        Jezebel claiming to worry about old Havana if the Castros lose power is just another example of how everything these people say is a lie and the total opposite of the truth.

        1. It is kind of interesting how they get everything exactly backwards. Preserving an old building just for the sake of it, worrying about landfills or the rise of the oceans, setting aside habitat for the snail darter or the white rhino….those are all luxuries that capitalism affords.

          1. They seem to not understand that the market, by making that old building valuable, gives people a reason to keep it. If you can’t make any money or get any benefit from it, it is just an old building. If it is what attracts tourists, it is an asset to be guarded and preserved.

            1. Make money ?! The evil profits.

    5. “Dear Jezzie Writer, if you want to maintain the historic character of the shithole I call a home, we can trade places. I’d gladly accept the burden of living in a non-historic building riddled with modern amenities, and you can preserve the historic tenement I currently am forced to reside in. Sincerely, Cuban prole”

      1. clearly you are not “authentic”, prole.

      2. Oh come on. That hipster probably lives in a Red Hook tenement with a chamber pot. Havana would at least be warm in the winter and tentatively cooler in the summer

  5. Most of those old cars are in crap condition. Some car mag did an article a few (or more ?) years ago, and I recall that the owners were forced to be very creative to keep them running. Jury rigging carbs to run on kerosene, all kinds of crazy stuff. The idea that there are all these preserved, time-capsule, cars from the 50’s in Havana is a myth.

    1. I just want a body that isn’t too rusty.

      I’ll pop a crate engine in it and bolt a racing chassis underneath it.

      Haven’t you ever watched Gas Monkey?

      1. Restomods for the win.

        Check these guys out:

      2. That’s the differnece between “hot rods” and “collector cars”, and thousands or millions in price.

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  8. Simple solution:

    Policies regarding Cuba should be the same as policies regarding China.

    Why should one Commie nation have all the fun?

    1. Exactly. Chinese political dissidents are slaved until the clothes fall off their backs and they die in agony making super-cheap, unbelievably bad quality goods to fill the shelves at our K-Marts. It’s absolute nonsense that the Cubans have been unable to exploit those very profitable, hellishly inhumane markets too.

      1. *have not

  9. Crap. Why isn’t it Friday already?

  10. Here’s my prediction:

    American tourism will not make one Cuban who isn’t a connected regime crony any richer.

    American tourism will not make the Castro regime fall one day sooner.

    Nonetheless, I say go for it. Not because it will help any Cubans that I care about, but because the American government has no business telling Americans they can’t go to Cuba.

  11. I’m fairly certain that you are wrong on your first prediction. There is a growing cash economy that is creating wealth for the lower-middle class. Now what the government eventually does about that economy such as tax the crap outta people as we do here would certainly have an impact, but I have participated in that economy and seen the results (refurbished homes, ‘luxury goods’ etc.) that shows that much of the populace is reaping the benefit of relaxed governmental controls on free enterprise.

  12. I took a shit in Cuba once.

  13. When I went there a couple years back ( I called myself a blockade runner) there seemed to be a lot of people pissed off that they didn’t live in Miami. Having grown up in South Florida I couldn’t help wondering why anyone would want to live in that Miami shithole and deal with annoying, entitled rich assholes. I kept that thought to myself– not out of any since of personal danger– just that I don’t travel abroad to lecture people on their politics. I know some of you are into that, but it’s not my bag.

    I’m strongly ambivalent about loosening travel restrictions. On the one hand, as a libertarian I think one should be able to travel freely. On the other, Cuba is a fascinating travel destination that probably will be a lot worse off once it gets corporatized with five star resorts that will cater to the same pretentious fuckheads that would otherwise end up on Miami beach or some Carnival cruiseliner

    1. Dear AmSoc,

      Fuck off and die in a fire.



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  18. $89 an hour! Seriously I don’t know why more people haven’t tried this, I work two shifts, 2 hours in the day and 2 in the evening?And i get surly a chek of $1260……0 whats awesome is Im working from home so I get more time with my kids.
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  20. Much depends on how freely you can give cash to locals in exchange for goods and services without a government intermediary.

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