Reed Smith Client Alerts

On 16 June 2017, speaking to a crowd in Miami, Florida, President Trump announced a presidential policy directive strengthening sanctions against Cuba. President Trump stated the imposition of these sanctions was necessary to combat human rights violations by the Castro regime, and that the United States would not lift sanctions against Cuba “until all political prisoners are freed, freedoms of assembly and expression are respected, all political parties are legalized, and free and internationally supervised elections are scheduled”. Contrary to the Obama administration’s policy, which sought to improve relations with Cuba by easing many of the targeted sanctions, President Trump’s policy will make it more difficult for U.S. companies to engage in new business with Cuba, and for U.S. persons to visit the island. While the Cuban embargo remained in place under the Obama administration, his administration relaxed restrictions on travel, shipping, banking, family remittances, and those targeted at specific industries, such as telecommunications. See “Free Internet, Free Cuba” (December 2016). President Trump now intends to take a different course by reinforcing sanctions against Cuba, shoring up recently eased travel restrictions, and prohibiting American companies from engaging in new business with Grupo de Administración Empresarial, S.A. (GAESA), the military-run holding company that controls much of Cuba’s economy. The new policy, “Strengthening the Policy of the United States Toward Cuba”, can be found here. The Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) will implement the policy via amendments to the Cuban Assets Control Regulations (CACR), while the Department of Commerce will implement changes via amendments to the Export Administration Regulations (EAR).

Cuba Sanctions Under the Obama Administration

In our previous posts, we discussed the changes initiated by the Obama administration with regard to the U.S.-Cuba sanctions programme, and President Obama’s efforts to normalise relations between the two countries. See Reed Smith client alerts of 9 January 2017, 18 October 2016, 17 October 2016, 22 March 2016, 2 February 2016, and 19 December 2014. These changes were largely targeted at the travel, telecommunications, shipping, finance, educational, and humanitarian sectors.