The United States opens banking services to Cuban companies in order to strengthen the private sector

Washington (AFP) – The United States lifted some financial restrictions on Cuba on Tuesday, in a move Designed to enhance Private companies on the island.

The changes will allow independent business owners to open and access US bank accounts for their businesses online. Other measures include steps to open more Internet-based services and expand the ability of private companies to use certain financial transactions.

“These regulatory amendments modernize and clarify licenses to support Internet-based services to promote freedom of Internet access in Cuba, support independent entrepreneurs in the Cuban private sector and expand access to certain financial services for the Cuban people,” the Treasury Department said in a statement. press release.

Among the major changes is allowing private Cuban business owners to open bank accounts in the United States and access them online once they return to Cuba, something they could not do before. In addition, the US will once again allow so-called “full switch” transactions, where money is transferred from one country to another but routed through the US.

“This restored license aims to help the Cuban people, including independent entrepreneurs in the private sector, by facilitating the sending of remittances and payment transactions in the Cuban private sector,” the statement said.

The administration of then-President Donald Trump revoked authorization for transfer transactions in 2019.

The Cuban authorities downplayed the importance of this announcement. Johanna Tablada, deputy director of the Cuban Foreign Ministry's United States Department, said the measures were “limited” and would do little to ease the blockade or sanctions that have hurt the Cuban people the most.

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“If these measures are serious and really aim to bring benefits to the population, even if they will bring benefits to a part of the population, the Cuban government will not obstruct them,” Tablada said.

The updated Treasury Department guidelines released Tuesday also change the terminology the agency uses to make clear that Cuban officials or banned members of the Cuban Communist Party would not benefit from changes targeting the country's nascent private sector.

About 11,000 private companies in Cuba provide nearly a third of the island's jobs, Cuban officials said.

Adjustments happen as Cuba deals with someone The worst economic crises Vital in its history. Cubans are suffering from power outages that have worsened in recent weeks, and are frustrated by food shortages and inflation. Hundreds of thousands of people immigrated, many of them to the United States.

In Cuba, there was caution about the significance of these changes.

“It is a positive measure in general, but there are many ways and reasons that must be answered in the coming days,” Oneil Diaz, director of Cuban corporate services company AUGE, told the Associated Press.

It could open the door to Cuban businessmen who import everything from food to cars, helping them make payments to suppliers, for example, Diaz said. But he wondered whether banks wanted to do business with businessmen on the island because they were aware of the risks.

Diaz pointed out that during the government of former President Barack Obama, there was a provision allowing Cubans to open accounts in the United States – albeit in a limited way – but banks did not show much enthusiasm for that.

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Tuesday's announcement comes a few weeks after the United States withdrew Cuba from the brief The State Department's list of countries it considers uncooperative Totally against violent groups. However, the United States continues to list Cuba as a state sponsor of terrorism, a designation that often scares banks because they do not want to become the target of lawsuits in American courts.

Relations between the United States and Cuba effectively froze after the 1959 revolution, during which Fidel Castro came to power and established a communist government. There was a wave of nationalizations of large companies, although some small private companies were allowed to remain open until 1968.

The United States imposed a complete economic embargo on Cuba in 1962 during President John F. Kennedy's term.

Relations only began to normalize after Barack Obama became president and lifted some restrictions in 2017. But then Trump largely ended Obama's bilateral cooperation. In the final days of Trump's presidencyHis government once again designated Cuba a “state sponsor of terrorism” and imposed new sanctions on the Caribbean nation.

Cuba has also slowly opened its economy to more private companies.

In 2010, then-President Raul Castro initiated reforms that expanded self-employment to individuals, not companies. In 2021, the Cuban authorities allowed the creation of small and medium-sized companies.

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Rodriguez contributed from Havana, Cuba.

Aileen Morales

"Beer nerd. Food fanatic. Alcohol scholar. Tv practitioner. Writer. Troublemaker. Falls down a lot."

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