On the heels of President Obama’s historic announcement in December to normalize relations, U.S.-Cuba policy began charting a new course away from decades of isolation.
Six months later, many are curious about the progress the two countries have made. To update on the sanctions changes published and effective January 16, the U.S. Department of State partnered with Reddit for an installment of “Ask Me Anything,” featuring Seth Wyngowski and Benjamin Barron, both experts on Cuba sanctions policy.
They took your queries. Here’s what they had to say about:
The U.S. changing its policy toward Cuba
President Obama's new direction on Cuba recognizes that our past approach of isolation has not led to a democratic and prosperous Cuba. With this new direction, we are replacing isolation with engagement.
A U.S. Embassy in Havana
We are fully engaged with the Government of Cuba in discussions concerning the reopening of embassies. The discussions have been positive and both sides have been in frequent communication. We feel that a U.S. Embassy in Havana will help the Cuban people and advance our interests and we hope to reopen soon.
Travel to Cuba and buying cigars
Americans are not permitted to travel to Cuba for touristic purposes. Americans traveling to Cuba must qualify for a general or specific license pursuant to one of the 12 categories of authorized travel as set forth in the Office of Foreign Assets Control's regulations. Once it has been determined that you qualify, an entry visa must be obtained from Cuban authorities.
Americans who are authorized to travel to Cuba, are permitted to import up to $100 in alcohol or tobacco products as accompanied baggage upon their return to the United States.
U.S.-Cuba collaboration on issues of mutual concern
There is growing communication with the Cuban government on a variety of issues of interest to both of our countries. Cuba is discussing with us issues including migration, law enforcement, civil aviation, access to information, the environment, human rights, health, and trafficking in persons. In late March, for example, U.S. Coordinator for International Communications and Information Policy Ambassador Sepulveda visited Cuba for meetings on telecommunications. We hope to identify more areas of mutual concern as our communications continue to grow.
U.S. companies doing business in Cuba
There are a number of restrictions that still exist for U.S. companies with respect to doing business with Cuba, but there are some opportunities in areas like telecommunications, supporting Cuba’s nascent private sector, and agricultural and medical trade, among others. I would recommend that you review the Office of Foreign Assets Control's FAQs on Cuba travel, transactions, and imports, as well as the Commerce Department’s Bureau of Industry and Security page on export regulations.If you have additional questions, you may wish to reach out to OFAC or BIS, which administer U.S. sanctions on Cuba.
Removing Cuba from the State Sponsor of Terror list?
On April 14, the President submitted to Congress the required report and certification indicating the Administration's intent to rescind Cuba's State Sponsor of Terrorism designation. The rescission of the designation can go into effect no sooner than 45 days after Congress receives the report and certification. If Congress does not block the proposed rescission within that period, the Secretary of State will then take the final decision to rescind the designation.
Read the full Reddit “Ask Me Anything” transcript.