On January 14th, 2011, the White House announced that President Obama has ordered significant changes to policies regarding Cuba and has directed Secretaries of State, Treasury and Homeland Security to take certain steps towards changing regulations and policies governing:
- purposeful travel;
- non-family remittances; and
- U.S. airports supporting licensed charter flights to and from Cuba.
These changes will be enacted through modifications to the current Cuban Asset Control and Customs and Border Protection regulations and policies and will take effect upon publication of modified regulations in the Federal Register within 2 weeks.
On purposeful travel, it will modify regulations and policies for qualified groups of travelers, by increasing the categories of qualified travelers allowed to visit Cuba. On remittances, the modifications will restore and create certain general licenses. With regards to U.S. Airports, the President has directed regulations that govern eligibility for all U.S. international airports to apply and provide services to licensed charters to and from Cuba, among other changes.
These developments follow certain changes that took effect in April 2009, as communicated by the White House Memorandum, Promoting Democracy and Human Rights in Cuba.
According to this Memorandum, certain necessary actions were taken to:
- lift restrictions on travel related transactions;
- remove restrictions on remittances to a person’s family in Cuba.
In the same Memorandum, certain important changes in policy affect telecommunication cooperation between the U.S. and Cuba. The intention is to increase communication between Americans and Cubans, but will also open a new space for American businesses in an underdeveloped, though a prime market, such as Cuba.
In a nutshell, the Memorandum directs respective agencies to take necessary actions to:
- authorize U.S. telecommunications network providers to enter into agreements to establish fiber-optic cable and satellite telecommunications facilities linking the United States and Cuba;
- license U.S. telecommunications service providers to enter into and operate under roaming service agreements with Cuba’s telecommunications service providers;
- license U.S. satellite radio and satellite television service providers to engage in transactions necessary to provide services to customers in Cuba;
- license persons subject to U.S. jurisdiction to activate and pay U.S. and third-country service providers for telecommunications, satellite radio, and satellite television services provided to individuals in Cuba, except certain senior Communist Party and Cuban government officials; and
- authorize, consistent with national security concerns, the export or re-export to Cuba of donated personal communications devices such as mobile phone systems, computers and software, and satellite receivers through a license exception.