On July 18, a group of eight Cuban entrepreneurs held a press conference in Washington, D.C. to announce that they had written to the U.S. Secretaries of State, Treasury and Commerce saying that they were “encouraged to read in President Trump’s June 16 National Security Memorandum on Strengthening the Policy of the United States Toward Cuba that the President wishes to encourage the growth of the Cuban private sector.” Therefore, these entrepreneurs asked the Trump Administration to consider and adopt recommendations regarding U.S. travel to the island, U.S. remittances to Cubans, U.S. banking services for such Cuban enterprises and continued U.S.-Cuba discussions and negotiations.
U.S. Travel to Cuba
The group first asserted: “U.S. travel to Cuba directly benefits private entrepreneurs. The vast majority of U.S. individual travelers (vs. groups) frequent private restaurants and lodging. Fewer travelers will have a direct negative impact on businesses in the hospitality sector as well an indirect negative impact on both forward and backward linkage enterprises.” Therefore, the group recommended the following:
- “Restore the ability of individuals to engage in self-directed People-to-People educational travel.”
- “Issue guidance to clarify that individuals who support the Cuban private sector by using private lodging or restaurants are eligible, by general license, for individual travel under the Support for the Cuban People category by virtue of supporting civil society.”
- “Clearly define new regulations so as not to deter would-be travelers; produce informational materials for public.”
U.S. Remittances to Cubans
Again the group started with a factual background: “Remittances are essential to Cuba’s private sector, providing the financing to begin, and the working capital to sustain, businesses. Remittances also provide Cuban consumers with the ability to patronize private businesses. A U.S. policy of not restricting remittances is therefore critical to the health of the private sector.” The following were the recommendations:
- “The Department of Commerce should adopt a favorable disposition to approving those exports to Cuba likely to benefit Cuban private sector individuals and/or companies
- “Allow maximum remittance flows to increase liquidity for private sector and Cuban families; exempt remittance from the prohibition on payments to ‘prohibited officials’ of the Cuban government.”
The following was the factual background: “Many Cuban entrepreneurs purchase goods and services in the [U.S.] to help run their businesses. Cubans are legally permitted to open bank accounts in the U.S., but there are restrictions on the allowable transactions, and limited and uncertain account services, impairing businesses in both countries.” Therefore, these were the recommendations:
- “Expand the allowable transactions for Cubans holding bank accounts in the U.S. to include business-related transactions including the acquisition of goods for business use.”
- “Do not close, and allow access to, U.S. bank accounts held by Cubans when the Cuban individual is not present in the U.S.”
- “Make public statements clarifying the intent of the Administration to allow Cubans to open bank accounts in the U.S. (limiting risk for banks).”
Bilateral Dialogue and Cooperation
“Most Cuban entrepreneurs view improved relations between the U.S. and Cuba as a net positive for their businesses, and many developed their business model on this premise.” Therefore, the following recommendations were made:
- “Continue bilateral engagement on issues of mutual interest to build respect and confidence.”
- “Continue outreach to U.S. banks and businesses to clarify regulations so allowable engagement continues and expands.”
- “Engage directly with the Cuban private sector; [Cuban sector] leaders have written two letters to the Administration (one to the President-elect, another to Ivanka Trump Kushner) with no response.”
This letter and its recommendations are wholeheartedly endorsed by this blogger. Cuba’s private sector is a positive development for the Cubans directly involved in that sector, all other Cubans and the U.S., and President Trump’s June 16 announcement already is having negative effects on that sector and needs to be reversed.
 Here is another report of those negative effects: Zanona, In Cuba, Trump’s policy shift casts dark shadow, The Hill (July 19, 2017).