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US Sanctions against Cuba

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On October 21, 2019, the US Commerce Department’s Bureau of Industry and Security (“BIS”) amended the Export Administration Regulations (“EAR”) to further restrict exports and reexports of items to Cuba (“the Amendment“).  According to BIS, the Amendment was made to further restrict the Cuban government’s access to items subject to the EAR, thereby supporting the US government’s national security and foreign policy decision to hold the Cuban regime accountable for its repression of the Cuban people and its continuing support for the Maduro regime in Venezuela.  The Amendment further implements President Trump’s June 2017 National Security Presidential Memorandum on Strengthening the Policy of the United States Toward Cuba.  BIS also updated Frequently Asked Questions regarding Cuba, and the US Commerce Department issued a related press release here.

The same week, Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo wrote to the Secretary of Transportation noting the Administration’s policy and requested that the Department of Transportation (“DOT”) suspend all scheduled US carrier flights between the United States and all airports in Cuba, except José Martí International Airport (HAV) in Havana.  DOT issued an order suspending service on October 25, 2019.  US air carriers have 45 days to discontinue all scheduled air service between the United States and all airports in Cuba, except José Martí International Airport.  Please see here for the State Department’s press release.

A summary of specific changes/clarifications made by the Amendment are described below:

On September 6, 2019, the US Treasury Department Office of Foreign Assets Control (“OFAC”) announced that it is amending the Cuban Assets Control Regulations (“CACR”) to further financially isolate the Cuban government and implement President Trump’s June 2017 National Security Presidential Memorandum (“NSPM”) Strengthening the Policy of the United States Towards Cuba (the “CACR Amendment”). The CACR Amendment (1) removes the authorization for banks subject to US jurisdiction to process pass-through or “U-turn” transactions, and (2) eliminates or restricts certain types of remittances to Cuba. The CACR Amendment was published in the Federal Register on September 9, 2019, and will take effect on October 9, 2019.

OFAC also published Frequently Asked Questions and a Fact Sheet on the CACR Amendment.

On Tuesday June 4, 2019, the Trump Administration announced additional changes to its Cuba policy, further restricting group people-to-people educational travel and limiting the types of aircraft and vessels authorized to travel to Cuba on temporary sojourn. Tuesday’s actions are intended to prevent travel from the United States to Cuba from enriching the Cuban military, intelligence, and security services. These changes, which took effect on June 5, 2019, are a further step toward implementation of the National Security Presidential Memorandum of June 16, 2017 “Strengthening the Policy of the United States Toward Cuba” and the Administration’s intent to restrict non-family travel to Cuba as announced by the President on April 17, 2019. Please see our blog posts covering these prior developments here and here.

On April 17, 2019, the Trump Administration announced several decisions that mark a significant shift in US policy toward Cuba, most notably by declaring that the United States will no longer suspend Title III of the LIBERTAD Act of 1996, which is also known as the Helms-Burton Act.