Another U.S. Designation of  Cubans Ineligible To Enter U.S.   

On January 2, 2020, the U.S. Department of State designated  Leopoldo Cintra Frias and his two children ineligible to enter the U.S.[1]

He is the Minister of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Cuba (MINFAR) and according to the State Department. “bears responsibility for Cuba’s actions to prop up the former Maduro regime in Venezuela.  Alongside Maduro’s military and intelligence officers, MINFAR has been involved in gross human rights human rights

violations and abuses in Venezuela, including torturing or subjecting Venezuelans to cruel, inhumane, or degrading treatment or punishment for their anti-Maduro stances.  Dismantling Venezuela’s democracy by terrifying Venezuelans into submission is the goal of MINFAR and the Cuban regime.”

This U.S. action claims to be based on the FY 2019 Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Appropriations Act, when “the Secretary of State has credible information that foreign government officials have been involved in significant corruption or a gross violation of human rights.”

This U.S. action probably is merely words since this blogger suspects that it is highly unlikely that Senor Cinta Frias or his children want to come to the U.S.

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[1] State Dep’t, Press Statement: Public Designation of Leopoldo Cintra Frias Due to Involvement in Gross Violations of Human Rights (Jan. 2, 2020).

 

State Department’s New “Bilateral Relations Fact Sheet: U.S. Relations with Cameroon”       

On December 20, the U.S. State Department released its new “Bilateral Relations Fact Sheet: U.S. Relations with Cameroon.”[1]  Here is the text of that document.

“The United States established diplomatic relations with Cameroon in 1960, following the independence of the French-administered part of the country. Cameroon has had just two presidents since independence. U.S. relations with Cameroon are positive, although from time to time they have been affected by concerns over human rights abuses, in particular in the Anglophone Northwest and Southwest Regions, and the pace of political and economic liberalization. Cameroon plays a key role in regional stability and remains our strongest regional partner in countering terrorism in the Lake Chad Region. The United States and Cameroon are closely engaged on issues that address democracy and governance, health, regional security, humanitarian assistance, and environmental protection.” (Emphasis added.)

“U.S. Assistance to Cameroon”

“The U.S. government has implemented the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief in Cameroon since 2012 and works across five U.S. government agencies to support Cameroonian national HIV and TB programs.  The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and U.S. Agency for International Development supports Cameroonian government efforts to combat HIV, malaria, and other public health threats.  In collaboration with the Ministry of Health, CDC and USAID strengthens Cameroon’s health sector by building laboratory, surveillance, emergency management and workforce capacity to prevent, detect, and respond to disease outbreaks.  USAID’s humanitarian programs support conflict-affected populations by addressing food insecurity and malnutrition, providing health services, supporting agricultural production, and improving livelihoods through support to meet the basic needs of vulnerable households Peace Corps works in six regions to improve community health, education, and agriculture.”

“The Public Affairs Section of the U.S. Embassy in Cameroon organizes cultural, educational, and informational exchanges.  It maintains a library and helps foster the development of Cameroon’s independent press. Through several State Department and USAID regional funds, the Embassy provides funds for biodiversity protection, refugees, democratization, human rights, countering violent extremism, and education.  The Department of Defense conducts bilateral and multilateral security cooperation activities in coordination with the Cameroonian government.  U.S. security assistance strengthens Cameroon’s ability to contain Boko Haram and ISIS-West Africa, ensure maritime security in the Gulf of Guinea, contribute to regional stability, strengthen military justice, and protect human rights.” (Emphases added.)

Bilateral Economic Relations”

“The U.S. and Cameroon signed a Bilateral Investment Treaty (BIT) in 1986 that came into force in 1989. Cameroon is currently the United States’ 128th largest goods trading partner with $412 million in total (two way) goods trade during 2018.  U.S. goods exports to Cameroon totaled $193 million; goods imports totaled $219 million.”

 “Cameroon’s Membership in International Organizations”

“Cameroon and the United States belong to many of the same international organizations, including the United Nations, International Monetary Fund, World Bank, and World Trade Organization.”

“Bilateral Representation”

“The U.S. Ambassador to Cameroon is Peter H. Barlerin; other principal embassy officials are listed in the Department’s Key Officers List.”

“Cameroon maintains an embassy in the United States at 3400 International Drive, NW, Washington, DC 20008. (tel. 202-265-8790).”

“More information about Cameroon is available from the Department of State and other sources, some of which are listed here:”

CIA World Factbook Cameroon Page
U.S. Embassy
USAID Cameroon Page
History of U.S. Relations With Cameroon
Office of the U.S. Trade Representative Country Page
U.S. Census Bureau Foreign Trade Statistics
Export.gov International Offices Page
Travel Information

Conclusion

In light of developments this year, as discussed in prior posts to this blog, this document’s bland references to human rights are surprising as is the failure to mention the October 2019 U.S. suspension of Cameroon’s participation in a preferential African trade program because of Cameroon’s human rights violations.

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[1] State Dep’t, Bilateral Relations Fact Sheet: U.S. Relations with Cameroon (Dec. 20, 2019). This is a pro forma document prepared by the Department for every country in the world.

 

Dwindling Hope in Cuba    

Five years ago, on December 17, 2014, U.S. President Obama and Cuba President Raúl Castro simultaneously announced that their two countries had embarked on a process of normalization and reconciliation that continued through the rest of Obama’s presidency that ended on January 20, 2017. [1] President Trump, however, has halted that process and in fact has adopted many hostile policies regarding the island.

On the fifth anniversary of the Obama/Castro announcement, journalists from the Associated Press walked through Havana to ask Cubans how they felt about the current conditions on the island. Overall, the journalists said, “it feels almost as if that historic moment never happened.. . . Now, the two years of detente under Obama feel like a temporary break in a long history of tension and struggle that has no end in sight.”[2]

“The Cuban economy is stagnant, with tourism numbers flat and aid from Venezuela far below its historic peak as Cuba’s oil-rich chief ally fights through its own long crisis.”[3]

Antoin Ugartez, a 42-year-old father of three who rents a three-wheeled covered scooter known as a Cocotaxi from a state-run agency, said the post-Trump decline in tourism had hit him hard. Detente, he said, “was a great step forward for Cuban society. Things developed and you started to see different perspectives, a different vision of economic improvement for your family, the conditions you live in.” Now, he said, “I barely make enough to put food on the table.”

On December 16, 2019 (the day before the fifth anniversary), Cuba’s Foreign Ministry’s General Director for U.S. Affairs, Fernández de Cossio, said, “There are powerful people today in the U.S. government that want to increasingly apply hostile measures and sever our bilateral relationship. If that were to be the case, we are ready to face that reality, but it is not what the people of Cuba want and not what the government of Cuba is seeking.”[4]

In an apparent response to this Cuban comment, an anonymous State Department official said, “”While there are no plans to break off diplomatic ties at this time, one thing that has clearly reached a low point is the Castro regime’s abuses of its own people. In addition, the regime is spreading its totalitarian repression to other countries in the region.”

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[1] U.S. and Cuba Embark on Reconciliation, dwkcommentaries.com (Dec.  21, 2014).

[2] Assoc. Press, 5 Years After Detent With US, Cubans Say Hope Has Dwindled, N.Y. times (Dec. 17, 2019).

[3]  On December 12, 2019, the Cuban government announced that foreign visitors for the year were only slightly more than four million versus predictions of more than five million. Taxi drivers, classic car tours, private bed and breakfasts, restaurants and other private businesses dependent on foreign visitors have been especially suffering with this lower number. (Assoc. Press, Cuba Tourists Barely Pass 4 Million, in Disappointing Result, N.Y. Times (Dec. 12, 2019).)

[4]  Reuters, Cuba Says It Is Prepared if U.S. Chooses to Sever Diplomatic Ties, N.Y. Times (Dec. 16, 2019).

 

Latest U.S. Struggle Over Refugees

On November 1, 2019, as discussed in an earlier post, President Trump set 18,000 as the quota for refugee admissions into the U.S. for Fiscal 2020 (October 1, 2019—September 30, 2020).

Executive Order for Local Consent

Previously, on September 28, President Trump issued an executive order requiring state and local governments to provide written consents to refugee resettlements for Fiscal 2020. [1] The stated purpose of this order sounded reasonable:

  • “In resettling refugees into American communities, it is the policy of the United States to cooperate and consult with State and local governments, to take into account the preferences of State governments, and to provide a pathway for refugees to become self-sufficient.  These policies support each other.  Close cooperation with State and local governments ensures that refugees are resettled in communities that are eager and equipped to support their successful integration into American society and the labor force.”

This statement of purpose, however, went on to say that this requirement was “to be respectful of those communities that may not be able to accommodate refugee resettlement.  State and local governments are best positioned to know the resources and capacities they may or may not have available to devote to sustainable resettlement, which maximizes the likelihood refugees placed in the area will become self-sufficient and free from long-term dependence on public assistance.” (Emphasis added.)

The Order then provided that “Within 90 days of the date of this order, the Secretary of State and the Secretary of Health and Human Services shall develop and implement a process to determine whether the State and locality both consent, in writing, to the resettlement of refugees within the State and locality.”

State and HHS Departments’ Comments

Presumably on or after September 28, the State Department stated the following: Pursuant to this Executive Order, “the Department of State will seek to ensure that newly-arrived refugees are placed in communities where the state and local governments have consented to receive them.  Close cooperation with state and local governments ensures that refugees are resettled in communities that are eager and equipped to support their successful integration into American society and labor force.”[2]

However, research did not discover a State Department “policy to determine whether the State and locality both consent, in writing, to the resettlement of refugees within the State and locality.” Nor did research uncover anything from HHS or its Office of Refugee Resettlement on this subject or on any deadline for providing such written consent although one of the secondary sources cited in this post said that January 31 was the deadline.

State and Local Governments’ Responses

Another failure of research: no comprehensive list of state and local governments that to date have consented and not consented to resettlement.

Instead, there have been articles about the State of Utah welcoming resettled refugees. The state’s leading religious faith, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, supported this decision. It said that the Church has ““great concern and compassion” for people around the world “who have fled their homes seeking relief from violence, war, or religious persecution.” It added, “As members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we are deeply committed to living the two great commandments to love God and love our neighbor. We feel tremendous joy in helping all of God’s children, no matter where they may live in this world.”[3]

Another state granting consent was North Dakota. Its Republican Governor, Doug Burgum, on November 19, sent a letter to Secretary of State Michael Pompeo, saying, “North Dakota has had success at integrating refugees who have become responsible citizens and productive members of the workforce. Therefore, with ongoing diligence, North Dakota consents to receive resettlement of refugees, in conjunction with the continued assent and cooperation of local jurisdiction in our state.”[4]

This state consent then led to speculation that at least one county in the state, the one including the state capital of Bismarck, would not so consent. But on December 9 that county’s commission voted, 3-2 to continue accepting up to 25 new refugees after four-hours of impassioned testimony from residents. Governor Burgum said in the midst of this local debate that he had ““serious concerns that denying resettlement to a handful of well-vetted and often family-connected refugees would send a negative signal beyond our borders at a time when North Dakota is facing a severe workforce shortage and trying to attract capital and talent to our state.” Moreover, at least two other counties in the state have also consented.[5]

The State of Minnesota has not yet registered its position on this issue although a trusted source said that the State would consent and that it was drafting such a positive response with reasons why such resettlements would be good for Minnesota. In the meantime, some local authorities in the stata were having difficulties in deciding whether or not to consent. The largest city (Willmar) of the western county of Kandiyohi has foreign-born residents constituting 15.8% of its population, and its county board voted 3-2 to accept refugees. The Director of Refugee Services at the International Institute of Minnesota, Micaela Schuneman, observed that new arrivals were vital to the state’s economic growth and to bring families together. “Every time there’s a new hurdle to go through, it’s just more time that families are apart and that people are not being able to start their life in the United States.” [6]

Conclusion

The statement of the North Dakota Governor should be applauded and discussed in other states and counties considering whether or not to consent. Many states have aging and declining population and labor shortages. Therefore, they need immigrants, especially in rural areas.[7]

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[1] White House, Executive Order on Enhancing State and Local Involvement in Refugee Resettlement (Sept. 28, 2019).

[2] State Dep’t, Report to Congress on Proposed Refugee Admissions for FY 2020; State Dep’t, Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Placement: Reception and Placement.

[3] Witte, Trump gave states the power to ban refugees. Conservative Utah wants more of them, Wash. Post (Dec. 2, 2019); Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, First Presidency Releases Statement on Refugees (Dec. 2, 2019); Assoc. Press, Latter-Day Saints Leaders Reaffirm Support for Refugees, N.Y. Times (Dec. 9, 2019).

[4] Letter, Governor Burgum to Secretary Pompeo (Nov. 19, 2019).

[5] Assoc. Press, North Dakota County May Become US’s 1st to Bar New Refugees, N.Y. Times (Dec.8, 2019); Farzan, A North Dakota county was poised to be first to bar refugees under Trump’s executive order. Residents said no, Wash. Post (Dec. 10, 2019); Assoc. Press, North Dakota County Votes to Take Limited Number of Refugees, N.Y. Times (Dec. 9, 2019); Gebelhoff, A pro-Trump county rebuked the president. It deserves our gratitude, Wash. Post (Dec. 12, 2019).

[6] Rao, Local approval for refugee resettlement sparks heated debate in Minnesota counties, StarTribune (Dec. 8, 2019).

[7] Kelly, Letter to Editor: Refugees are critical to our economic and cultural success, Wash. Post (Dec. 8, 2019). See also, e.g., these posts to dwkcommentaries.com: More Warnings of the Problems Facing U.S. Aging, Declining Population (Aug. 14, 2019); Another Report About U.S. Need for More Immigrants (Aug. 25, 2019); Minnesota’s Challenges of Declining, Aging Population (Oct. 2, 2019); Worthington’s Mayor Defends City (Oct. 3, 2019); Prominent Economist Says Cuts in U.S. Immigration Threaten U.S. Economy and Innovation (Oct. 12, 2019).

 

 

 

U.S. Reactions to Recent Developments in Cameroon

Over the last several years, Cameroon, a country of 15.7 million people on the west coast of Africa, has been engaged in armed conflict between its central government, which is controlled by the population’s 2/3 majority of Francophones (French-speaking people), and the minority Anglophones (English-speaking people).[1]

As covered in a prior post, in a September 10 speech Cameroon President Paul Biya called for a National Dialogue about the conflict between the country’s Anglophones and Francophones. Here we will examine U.S. actions and statements about Cameroon this year, before and after that speech.

State Department Statements About Cameroon [2]

Surprisingly for this blogger, the State Department has not issued any statement, pro or con, on the Biya speech or the National Dialogue. Instead, the Department, before and after the speech, has issued negative comments about the country other than the brief congratulations on its National Day on May 20 while also noting that the U.S. “supports the people of Cameroon, and remains committed to working with Cameroonians to strengthen democracy, governance, human rights, and rule of law.”

On February 6, 2019, the U.S. suspended certain military aid to Cameroon because of alleged human rights abuses by the country’s security forces. The Department said, “The reason for this action was concern over alleged human rights abuses by the country’s security forces. We do not take these measures lightly, but we will not shirk from reducing assistance further if evolving conditions require it. We emphasize that it is in Cameroon’s interest to show greater transparency in investigating credible allegations of gross violations of human rights security forces, particularly in the Northwest, Southwest, and Far North Regions.”

On April 9, 2019, Cameroon was included in a general Department Media Note about Updates to Safety and Security Messaging for U.S. Travelers, which stated that its public Travel Advisories for Cameroon and some other countries had “added a new risk indicator [K] to our public Travel Advisories in order to communicate more clearly to U.S. citizens the risks of kidnapping and hostage taking by criminal and terrorist actors around the world.”

On July 9, 2019, the Department publicly designated Cameroon’s Inspector General of the Cameroonian Gendarmerie, Colonel Jean Claude Ango Ango, due U.S. to his involvement in significant corruption related to wildlife trafficking. Pursuant to a federal statute, the Colonel and his wife were ineligible for entry into the U.S.

And on October 31, President Trump announced that effective January 1, the U.S. would suspend Cameroon’s participation in a U.S. preferential trade program because “the Government of Cameroon currently engages in gross violations of internationally recognized human rights. . . . Despite intensive engagement between the United States and the Government of Cameroon, Cameroon has failed to address concerns regarding persistent human rights violations being committed by Cameroonian security forces.  These violations include extrajudicial killings, arbitrary and unlawful detention, and torture.”

An individual, perhaps with Cameroonian connections (Joel Ademisoye), registered objections to this U.S. suspension of that country’s eligibility for certain trade benefits. He said, “interestingly and unfortunately, President Trump has weaponized and turned the [African Growth and Opportunity Act] AGOA into an economic instrument to intervene, ameliorate and solve a political crisis in Cameroon.” This is “an inappropriate way to address a volatile political issue that centers on historic, cultural and linguistic fault lines in Cameroon. Preventing Cameroon access to the U.S. market would have significant negative effects on the powerless and poor in Cameroon.” Instead, he opines, “Mr. Trump should restrict the supply of military weapons to and ban assistance for police training to the Biya administration because of its effective employment of the country’s security forces to oppress, subjugate and kill the Anglophone people in Cameroon and deny them their human rights.”

 U.S. Embassy in Cameroon [3]

On October 1, the U.S. Embassy issued its only statement regarding the National Dialogue, which was mentioned in President Biya’s speech. It was made to clarify the role of the U.S. in Cameroon’s National Dialogue by saying the U.S. “is a neutral observer of the process and, while we have offered to play a role in identifying an eventual solution, we would need to be asked by both sides before taking on this role. The United States remains a committed partner and friend of Cameroon.  Our desire is for all Cameroonians to live in peace.  The Embassy urges all involved in the conflict in the Anglophone Northwest and Southwest to abjure further violence and enter into an open-ended dialogue.”

The Embassy also has made the following comments on some of the continued unrest in the country.

  • On October 5, the Embassy welcomed Cameroon’s “decision to drop charges against Maurice Kamto and other members and supporters of the Cameroon Renaissance Movement (MRC) arrested following election protests earlier this year.  Their release from prison today is a constructive step toward relieving political tensions and affirming the government’s commitment to respect for fundamental freedoms.  We hope further measures will be taken in the wake of the recently concluded National Dialogue, leading to the restoration of peace in the Northwest and Southwest Regions.”
  • On October 11, the Embassy condemned “the horrific late September aggravated assault, murder, and beheading of a female prison official and mother of three in the Northwest Region of Cameroon.  We extend our deepest condolences to her surviving family. We urge the authorities to undertake a thorough and balanced investigation of this and other atrocities and bring the perpetrators to a fair and transparent trial.”“More violence is not the answer.  We call on both sides to the conflict in the Northwest and Southwest to abjure further violence and to enter into an open-ended dialogue without pre-conditions.”
  • On November 12, it was a “Demonstration Alert” about “the potential for demonstrations and unrest related to a reported ban on motorcycle taxis in certain areas within Yaoundé.  There is currently a heightened law enforcement presence at roundabouts and other intersections throughout the city.”
  • On November 20, it was a “Security Alert,” which stated, “S. citizens in the North and Far North Regions of Cameroon should take all necessary precaution to prevent attacks, kidnappings, or other associated actions by terrorist groups seeking to retaliate for the death of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.   The Embassy reminds U.S. citizens that our April 9, 2019, Travel Advisory for Cameroon advises no travel to these regions due to the threat of crime, kidnapping, and terrorism.”

In addition, the U.S. Embassy has made the following recent positive comments about the country that say or suggest the U.S. was still supporting the Cameroon government.[5]

  • On September 26, the Embassy published U.S. remarks congratulating Cameroon on “the many successes of the PREDICT 2 project, funded by the United States government.  This project is just one of the many ways that the United States is partnering every day with Cameroon for a healthy, prosperous, and peaceful future for the people of this country.”
  • On October 17, the U.S. Ambassador presented self-help and refugee awards to seven Cameroonians. He emphasized that the U.S. “is a committed partner to all Cameroonians who are striving to improve the governance, prosperity, peace, and health of their fellow citizens. . . . We know that it is Cameroonians who will bring sustainable solutions to the critical problems of their country.”
  • On October 18, the U.S. Ambassador awarded “over 42 million FCFA to seven Cameroonian organizations working for the development, health, and prosperity of their communities” as “an example of the [U.S.] commitment to its partnership with Cameroon.”
  • On October 20, the U.S. Ambassador to Cameroon gave a speech in Yaoundé (the country’s capitol) congratulating Cameroon and certain other African countries for progress in fighting the disease of meningitis.
  • On October 24, the Embassy welcomed the “voluntary return” of groups of refugees to the neighboring country of the Central African Republic (CAR) and congratulated the “governments of Cameroon and [CAR and ] UN High Commissioner of Refugees “for their cooperation and goodwill.” The U.S. “is the largest donor of humanitarian assistance in Cameroon, having contributed over $87 million since 2018 to humanitarian actors to provide food, water, shelter, and other services benefitting refugees and other vulnerable populations.  We encourage other countries to contribute more to the urgent needs of refugees and vulnerable populations in Cameroon in a way that supports progress toward stability, good governance, and self-reliance. We recognize the hospitality of the government of the Republic of Cameroon and of the Cameroonian people in continuing to host more than 400,000 refugees from neighboring countries.  Protecting the rights of refugees and ensuring they have access to jobs and education for their children is fundamental.”
  • On October 30, the Embassy congratulated Cameroon on the first international certification of a blood bank in the country.
  • On October 31, the U.S. Embassy in Cameroon released a statement expressing deep sadness over “the loss of life, destruction of homes, and displacement of people due to floods and landslides in the neighborhood of Gouache near the West Region’s capital city of Bafoussam.  We convey our deepest condolences to the families of those who have died or been injured and to the Government of Cameroon.  The United States expresses its solidarity with the people of the West region and stands ready to work with the regional and national authorities as they respond to the humanitarian needs resulting from this natural disaster.”
  • On November 1, the U.S. Embassy released a statement about the previously mentioned U.S. decision to terminate certain trade benefits for the country as of January 1, 2020. But its headline was “U.S. Commitment to Cameroon Remains Strong Despite Change in AGOA Status.” The statement itself said the U.S. remains “committed to working with Cameroon to [meet the criteria for that trade status]. In 2018, Cameroon exported roughly $220 million in goods and services to the United States; $63 million was exported under AGOA, over 90 percent of which was crude petroleum.  The United States is a committed partner and friend of Cameroon, and we will continue to pursue robust and diverse commercial ties, working with other tools at our disposal toward realizing the enormous potential of this relationship for our mutual prosperity and economic growth.”

Conclusion

The difference in the messaging of the State Department and the Embassy is striking. While it is easy to understand the Embassy’s desire to maintain good relations with the country, this blogger finds it unusual that this messaging was not repeated or endorsed by the Department.

=========================

[1] See generally List of Posts to dwkcommentareis—Topical: CAMEROON.

[2] State Dep’t, Cameroon’s National Days National Day (May 20, 2019); U.S. Announces Suspension of Military Aid to Cameroon, dwkcommentaries.com (Feb. 7, 2019); U.S. Announces Suspension of Military Aid to Cameroon, dwkcommentaries.com (Feb. 7, 2019); State Dep’t, U.S. Department of State Announces Updates to Safety and Security Messaging for U.S. Travelers (April 9, 2019); State Dep’t, Public Designation, Due to Involvement in Significant Corruption, of the Republic of Cameroon’s Jean Claude Ango Ango (July 9, 2019); White House, Message to the Congress (Oct. 31, 2019); Paquette, Trump ends trade benefits for Cameroon over ‘persistent human rights violations,’ Wash. Post (Nov. 1, 2019; Letter to Editor from Joel Ademisoye,  Wash. Post (Nov. 6, 2019).

[3] U.S. Embassy, PRESS RELEASE: Clarification of U.S. role In Cameroon’s National Dialogue (Oct. 3, 2019); U.S. Embassy, The Charge d’Affairs’ Speech during the Closeout Ceremony of the USAID Predict Project (Sept. 26, 2019); U.S. Embassy, U.S. Embassy, Media Publishers Called to be Good Managers (Oct. 3, 2019); U.S. Embassy, Ambassador PeterBarlerin’s Remarks at the 2018 Ambassador’s Special Self-Help and Julia Taft Refugee Fund Small Grant Presentation Ceremony (Oct. 17, 2019); U.S. Embassy, PRESS RELEASE: Ambassador Awards Grants to Help Local Communities (Oct. 18, 2019);U.S. Embassy, Speech by U.S. Ambassador Peter Henry Barlerin On the occasion of the 16th Annual Meeting on Surveillance, Preparedness and Response to Meningitis (Oct. 23, 2019); U.S. Embassy, PRESS RELEASE: United States Welcomes Voluntary Return of Central African Refugees (Oct.24, 2019); U.S. Embassy, PRESS RELEASE: United States Congratulates Cameroon for Certification of Blood Bank (Oct. 30, 2019); U.S. Embassy, PRESS RELEASE: United States Condolences to Those Affected by Landslide in West Region (Oct. 31, 2019); U.S. Embassy, PRESS RELEASE: U.S. Commitment to Cameroon Remains Strong Despite Change in AGOA Status (Nov. 1, 2019).

 

State Department’s New U.S.-Cuba Relations Fact Sheet

On November 22, the State Department published its new U.S.-Cuba “Bilateral Relations Fact Sheet.”[1] Here is what it said.

“U.S.-CUBA RELATIONS “

“The United States seeks a stable, prosperous, and free country for the Cuban people. The United States pursues limited engagement with Cuba that advances our national interests and empowers the Cuban people while restricting economic practices that disproportionately benefit the Cuban government or its military, intelligence, or security agencies at the expense of the Cuban people. The U.S. government seeks to promote human rights, religious freedom, and democracy, encourages the development of telecommunications and the internet in Cuba, supports the growth of Cuba’s nascent private sector and civil society, and engages in areas that advance the interests of the United States and the Cuban people. The United States is committed to supporting safe, orderly, and legal migration from Cuba through the effective implementation of the U.S.-Cuba Migration Accords. Due to injuries sustained by our diplomatic community in Havana, visa processing for most Cuban applicants is presently taking place in third countries.”

“Bilateral Economic Relations”

“Although economic sanctions remain in place, the United States is the largest provider of food and agricultural products to Cuba, with exports of those goods valued at $220.5 million in 2018.  The United States is also a significant supplier of humanitarian goods to Cuba, including medicines and medical products, with total value of all exports to Cuba of $275.9 million in 2018. Remittances from the United States, estimated at $3.5 billion for 2017, play an important role in Cuba’s state-controlled economy.”

“Travel to Cuba” 

“Travel to Cuba for tourist activities remains prohibited, and U.S. federal regulations restrict travel to Cuba to licensed travelers engaged in certain specified activities. Anyone physically present in the United States, regardless of citizenship and nationality, must comply with these regulations.  Individuals seeking to travel to Cuba are not required to obtain licenses from the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) if their travel is authorized under a general license.  For travel not covered by a general license, travelers must seek OFAC authorization in the form of a specific license. Further information on the licensing process or the categories of authorized travel can be found on OFAC’s website.  Those contemplating travel to Cuba should also consult the consular information page about the country.”

“Transactions Involving Cuba”

“Transactions by persons subject to U.S. jurisdiction involving Cuba are generally prohibited unless specifically authorized by OFAC. For more information on transactions, please consult OFAC’s website.”

“Certain exports to Cuba must be licensed by the Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS). Further information on exports to Cuba can be found on the BIS website. Most imports from Cuba and other Cuban-origin goods (e.g., merchandise purchased or otherwise acquired in Cuba or of Cuban origin acquired in a third country) are prohibited, although importation of Cuban-origin information and informational materials (for example, publications, films, posters, photographs, tapes, compact discs, and certain artwork) are exempt from the prohibition.  Exports of certain items to Cuba that are intended to improve the living conditions, support independent economic activity, strengthen civil society, improve the free flow of information and facilitate lawful travel and commerce are generally authorized without a license (see here).  Moreover, certain goods and services produced by independent Cuban entrepreneurs are eligible for importation into the United States – for more information, see the State Department’s Section 515.582 List.  Further information on imports from Cuba can be found on the OFAC website.”

“Cuba Restricted List” 

“Direct financial transactions with certain entities and sub-entities under the control of, or acting for or on behalf of, the Cuban military, intelligence, or security services are also generally prohibited.  For more information, see the State Department’s Cuba Restricted List; Treasury’s regulations at 31 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) part 515.209, here; and Commerce’s regulations at 15 CFR parts 730-774, here.”

“Cuba’s Membership in International Organizations”

“Cuba and the United States belong to a number of the same international organizations, including the United Nations and the World Trade Organization, but usually take opposing positions on international issues.  Cuba was suspended from participation in the Organization of American States in 1962.  Its suspension was lifted in 2009; however, it has not engaged in the dialogue required for further participation in OAS processes.  At the invitation of host governments, Cuba attended the Summit of the Americas in 2015 and 2018.”

“Bilateral Representation”

“Principal U.S. embassy officials are listed in the Department’s Key Officers List.”

“Cuba is represented in the United States by the Cuban Embassy in Washington, DC.”

“More information about Cuba is available from the Department of State and other sources, some of which are listed here:

CIA World Factbook Cuba Page
U.S. Embassy
USAID Cuba Page
History of U.S. Relations With Cuba
Office of the U.S. Trade Representative Countries Page
U.S. Census Bureau Foreign Trade Statistics
Office of Foreign Assets Control Sanctions Page
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[1] State Dep’t, U.S.Relations with Cuba: Bilateral Relations Fact Sheet (Nov. 22, 2019).

 

U.S. Responds to Cuba’s Allegations about U.S. and José Daniel Ferrer

As discussed in a prior post, on November 20, Cuba alleged that Cuban activist, José Daniel Ferrer, was in detention because he was acting as a salaried agent of the U.S. to foment dissent on the island.

The U.S. State Department responded to these claims on November 22. Here is what the U.S. said. [1]

“The U.S. government strongly condemns the Castro regime’s accusations against our Chargé d’Affaires at the U.S. Embassy in Havana, Mara Tekach.  The regime has launched these baseless allegations against her in an attempt to distract the international community from its abysmal treatment of the Cuban people, especially the ongoing arbitrary detention of dissident Jose Daniel Ferrer.  Nevertheless, our Chargé d’Affaires and her team at the U.S. Embassy in Havana remain steadfast as they carry out the President’s mission to defend human rights and advance the cause of democracy in Cuba.”

“A key part of this work is to call out the Castro regime’s reprehensible human rights violations and abuses.  The dedicated U.S. diplomats at Embassy Havana also meet with human rights defenders in Cuba, as U.S. diplomats do throughout the world.”

“Cuba’s Ambassador in Washington enjoys freedom of expression here in the United States and uses it to publicly criticize our government.  We only wish other Cuban citizens, including the over 100 other political prisoners currently incarcerated by the Cuban regime and the hundreds of other dissidents subject to official harassment, could enjoy that same right to freedom of expression and the ability to criticize their own government in Cuba, as they could if Cuba honored its international human rights commitments.”

“Instead, the Castro regime’s first recourse is to dust off obsolete talking points from what should be a bygone era and describe any independent voices as mercenaries, subversives, and spies.  The reality is that it is the repression of the Cuban people, the stifling of their dreams, and the denial of their dignity that discredit the communist regime and their revolution.”

“The United States has, and will continue to, openly and transparently express our grave concerns about the treatment and condition of human rights defenders in Cuba.  The United States stands for the fundamental freedoms of expression, religion, association, and assembly – and we will stand by those in Cuba who desire the same.”

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[1] State Dep’t, Cuban Government Allegations of Political Interference Against U.S. Chargé d’Affaires (Nov. 22, 2019).