The United States opens banking services to private Cuban companies with the aim of strengthening the private sector

Washington The United States on Tuesday lifted some financial restrictions imposed on Cuba, in a move aimed at boosting private businesses on the island.

These measures will allow independent entrepreneurs to open and access U.S. bank accounts online to support their businesses. Other measures include steps to open more Internet-based services and expand the ability of private companies to use certain financial transactions.

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

Among the major changes is allowing private Cuban business owners to open bank accounts in the United States and then access them online once they return to Cuba, something they could not do before. The United States is also once again allowing so-called U-shaped transactions, where money is transferred from one country to another but routed through the United States.

“This restored license is intended to help the Cuban people, including independent entrepreneurs in the private sector, by facilitating remittances and transaction payments in the Cuban private sector,” the statement read.

The Trump administration revoked authorization for U trades in 2019.

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

According to Cuban officials, about 11,000 private companies in Cuba are responsible for about a third of employment on the island.

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These changes come at a time when Cuba is suffering from one of the worst economic and energy crises in its history. Cuban citizens have been facing frequent power outages in recent weeks and are frustrated by food shortages and inflation. Hundreds of thousands of people have immigrated, many of them destined for the United States.

Relations between the United States and Cuba effectively froze after the 1959 revolution that brought Fidel Castro to power and installed 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 widespread economic blockade of Cuba in 1962 under President John F. Kennedy.

It was only after the election of former President Barack Obama that relations began to improve somewhat, with some restrictions lifted in 2017. After Obama, then-President Donald Trump largely shut down Obama's bilateral cooperation. In the final days of the Trump administration, his government again designated Cuba as a “state sponsor of terrorism” and implemented new sanctions on the country.

Cuba has also slowly opened its economy to privately owned companies. In 2010, President Raul Castro initiated reforms that expanded self-employment for individuals but not for companies. In 2021, Cuban authorities allowed the creation of the first small and medium-sized enterprises, called SMEs in Spanish.

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Rodriguez contributed from Havana, Cuba.

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