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  #1  
Old 09-04-2009
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U.S. allows unlimited visits to relatives in Cuba

Purposely putting this in "sailing" and not "politics" to talk about the sailing part... I hear it was a great place to go, way back when.

Does this mean that cardiacpaul will be taking the "crazy cuban" there sometime soon?

From: UPDATE 2-U.S. allows unlimited visits to relatives in Cuba | Markets | Markets News | Reuters

UPDATE 2-U.S. allows unlimited visits to relatives in Cuba

* No limits on visits or cash remittances to Cuban family

* U.S. banks can set up remittance exchange facilities

* Big potential seen for telecommunications firms (Adds details, reaction, new Commerce Dept. rules)

By David Lawder

WASHINGTON, Sept 3 (Reuters) - Americans with relatives in Cuba can send them unlimited cash and visit the island as long and often as they would like under new rules that fissured a nearly five-decade trade embargo on Thursday.

The rules, made effective immediately by the U.S. Treasury Department, fleshed out an announcement by President Barack Obama in April to ease U.S. trade restrictions imposed on Cuba after Fidel Castro's leftist revolution half a century ago.

Until now, Cuban-Americans had been allowed to travel to the island only once a year and were limited to sending only $1,200 per person in cash to needy family members in Cuba.

But now they can send as much money as they want to a larger group of relatives that includes aunts, uncles, cousins and second cousins, a reversal of a restriction introduced by the Bush administration in a bid to squeeze Cuba's communist government financially.

"That is something that will help a lot," said Enrique Gonzalez, a 64-year-old military retiree in Havana. "Despite the global financial crisis, the relatives will send a lot of remittances, which will help everybody here," he said.

But the Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control, which has policed the trade embargo and fined Americans caught spending money in Cuba, said U.S. visitors could only spend $179 a day on trips to the island.

That is the same amount as the U.S. State Department's per diem rate for official visits. Previously, family travelers were allowed to spend just $50 a day.

Separate regulations issued by the U.S. Commerce Department doubled the value limit for gift parcels sent to Cubans to $800 per month and widened the allowed recipients. Non-monetary gifts could only be sent previously to immediate family members and they may now be sent to any individual or to independent religious, educational and charitable organizations in Cuba.

The Commerce Department also eliminated a 44-pound limit on personal baggage to Cuba and allows visitors to bring donated personal communications devices such as mobile phone systems, computers, software, satellite receivers and digital cameras.

But the loosening of the rules for Cuban-Americans did not affect a general ban on travel by American citizens to Cuba and tight restrictions on academic and cultural exchanges.

BANKING, TELECOMS LINKS

The rules provide for some changes that could lay the groundwork for future trade links between the United States and Cuba in banking and telecommunications.

Relaxation of the remittance rules allow U.S. banks to set up exchange arrangements with Cuban institutions to handle the transfers. The lack of such financial exchanges was considered a hindrance to the growth of agricultural trade with Cuba that was first allowed nearly a decade ago.

The Treasury rules allow U.S. telecommunications companies to set up fiber-optic cable and satellite links and enter into cell-phone roaming service agreements with Cuba. They allow U.S. residents to pay for satellite radio and television services provided to Cuban individuals by third-country firms.

The rules allow transactions and travel related to establishing telecoms services between the two countries.

Washington attorney Robert Muse, who specializes in Cuba issues and closely follows the Cuba embargo regulations, said he was encouraged by this provision, which could mean a genuine loosening of the U.S. trade sanctions in the telecoms area.

"If they have allowed the U.S. telecommunications industry to actually provide real technology in pursuit of telecommunications projects in Cuba, then ... it opens a market for U.S. suppliers that had been shut out of Cuba," he added.

The Treasury also established a general travel license to Cuba for U.S. employees of firms seeking to sell agricultural and medical products there.

Companies providing charter flights between the United States and Cuba said they expected a spike in passenger business as a result of the new regulations.

"There will definitely be a rush," said Vivian Mannerud, President of Airline Brokers Company, which has been operating since 1982.

"It was absolutely needed whether it be for business or from the humanitarian aspect, or just plain old freedom to travel and being able to visit your family whenever you want to," Mannerud told Reuters. (Reporting by David Lawder, additional reporting by Jeff Franks in Havana and Pascal Fletcher in Miami and Doug Palmer in Washington, Editing by Anthony Boadle)
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Old 09-04-2009
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Bene, I think this is great, although others will disagree. The money will go the Cuban people and not Fidel. The cold war was won with cash not bullets.
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I have no relatives in Cuba so I am still hoping they will decide to let the rest of us go there. I have a copy of Nigel Calder's cruising guide and it looks like a fantastic place to cruise - Lots of protected bays and anchorages, and I am told that things are generally very cheap there, especially if you have dollars.

And it is so close!
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Old 09-04-2009
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And other threads on this site have referenced articles about what a nightmare is if you need help there. When you go there, you are truly on your own!

"Unlimited cash" - Yeah, that won't be a back channel for otherwise prohibited transfers. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!

Yes I do have an axe to grind!
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Old 09-04-2009
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Here we go again, the moral compass argument. I live with in 45 min's of 3 major airports on the east coast. I am sure with in 4 or 5 hours I could be on a plane to Moscow or Beijing or Port of Prince, or shaking hands with Hugo Chávez, just like our President. Where is the out rage.


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Last edited by bubb2; 09-04-2009 at 04:57 PM.
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Old 09-04-2009
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ottos, my last post was not a rant directed at you! Cuba is not a economical or military threat to us. So what do we do, punish the people. If they were a threat, we would buy the lead painted toys from them or sell them wheat at a discount so they could turn around and sell at a profit.

just say'in
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Old 09-05-2009
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Hmmm -- Although it is a major step towards liberalization of commerce with Cuba, I remain skeptical. Here's why:

1. Officially, satellite dishes are illegal in Cuba (although this is not energetically enforced.) A few years back the govt ran a confiscation operation that did take many dishes away from ordinary folks, but it wound up being more of a "redistribution of info" deal since the dishes/decoders found their way into new homes/offices.

2. All of the banks are state run, as are all of the exchange offices. If you want to buy anything in Cuba, you have to use either the old peso or the new CUC. No matter what happens, Raul and his boys are now and will in the future get a cut of every remittance sent to a family member in Cuba. Although the exchange rate is currently pegged at 1.08 CUC = 1.00 USD, the govt also charges a 10% commission when you convert from dollars to CUC. Since the exchange rate and commission are set by the govt, they can easily adjust on the fly how big their cut will be.

3. As far as tourism goes (and that's what we're talking, right? Sailing to Cuba?), your options are pretty cut and dried. If you want to tie up somewhere, it's going to be at an official tourist marina. Like all of the tourist industy in Cuba, it will be operated by the Minstry of Defense. Now, this doesn't mean that you'll be docked alongside Navy patrol boats or watching Army parades while you sip your sundowners -- far from it. All this means is that the MoD is getting your money.

Like I said at the beginning -- I remain a skeptic.
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Old 09-05-2009
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I'd love to sail to Cuba. Seems like a very cool place to me. Some day.

I have no problem dropping a few bucks there. I mean, 90% of what I own was made in China. And their black bean soup really sucks.
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Old 09-05-2009
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One last point -- forgot to mention it specifically earler.

Just because we say it's OK, doesn't mean the Cuban govt will agree.

This will almost certainly impact the telecomms part of the new rules. The govt will continue to try to control access to and distribution of info to the ordinary Cuban. Consider:
- As I cited earlier, sat dishes/receivers are illegal. Cell phones are extremely rare, and are heavily regulated.
- Although the new rules will allow folks departing from the US to Cuba to export the IT stuff listed in the article, there's a whole 'nother side of the story when they set foot in Havana. Unless the traveller has a Cuban govt approved import license listing each item specifically, it aint getting past Cuban customs. Even folks traveling on diplomatic passports are required to do this kibuki dance -- if you think USG bureaucratic red tape is bad, you have no idea how good we've got it.

Last edited by PorFin; 09-05-2009 at 10:04 PM.
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Old 09-06-2009
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bubb2 View Post
ottos, my last post was not a rant directed at you!

just say'in

No offense taken, Bubb. I smell a rat when our (new) government changes from a very tight limit to "UNLIMITED" transfers. I think that this will be a portal for more than me sending my cousin Wilfredo a few hundred or thousand bucks.

I think that PorFin also expresses a judicious skepticism.
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