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The Surface vs. the Substance of US Cuba Policy

The US Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) has announced measures allowing Cuban entrepreneurs to open and access bank accounts in the United States. The new policy by OFAC purports to assist the Cuban private sector. Yet, this support appears selective, favoring certain individuals within a US-preferred subset of Cuban private sector entrepreneurs rather than genuinely aiding the Cuban people as a whole.


The Center for Democracy in the Americas outlines the new regulations, which include updated authorizations for internet-based services, expanded definitions for self-employed individuals, authorization for Cuban nationals to use US bank accounts, and the reinstatement of “U-turn” transactions.


However, these benefits are restricted to businesses that the US deems unconnected to the Cuban State. This distinction undermines the claim of broad support for the Cuban people, instead promoting a division within Cuban society.


The timing of Washington’s announcement is noteworthy as the Biden administration gears up for the presidential election in November. It appears to be a strategic move aimed at garnering favor among voters in Florida, a crucial state. While some Florida Democrats offer tepid support for the regulations, Republicans have been vocally critical, arguing that the regulations inadvertently support the Cuban regime.


The critique overlooks the unity central to Cuban society, where collective effort and state support are foundational. The new US regulations, by favoring a select group of Cubans, risk undermining this cohesion and imposing a divisive model of society akin to that of the US.


The Cuban government has responded by emphasizing the unity of Cuban society. They argue that the US measures are limited and do not address the core of the blockade or the additional sanctions that impede the Cuban economy. Cuba’s entrepreneurial system, both private and public sectors, operate in an interconnected manner, and efforts to separate them are seen as attempts to disrupt this unity.


At any rate, the state sector provides essential services such as education, health, culture, and sports, which benefit all Cubans, including those in the private sector. Thus, any measures that undermine the state sector ultimately harm the entire population. To truly support the Cuban people, the US needs to reconsider its approach, and lift the comprehensive sanctions that have long stifled Cuba’s development.


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