Shortly after taking office, President Donald Trump announced a foreign policy shift toward Cuba with the issuance of National Security Presidential Memorandum on Strengthening the Policy of the United States Toward Cuba (NSPM). In announcing President Trump’s revised policy in June 2017 (see Trump and Trade Update of June 20, 2017), the United States once again restricted certain travel and sought to limit providing any advantages to the Cuban military. As a result, the Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS), the Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), and the State Department re-instituted certain export restrictions and prohibitions that had been waived during the presidency of Barack Obama. Details of this new Cuba policy were detailed in a Thompson Hine International Trade Update bulletin of November 20, 2017. Generally, BIS re-instituted a policy of denial for license applications to export or re-export goods to, or for use by, certain entities or subentities the State Department identified on its Cuba Restricted List. In addition, OFAC implemented changes to the authorizations allowing for travel to Cuba and related transactions and amended its regulations to restrict certain financial transactions for entities on the Cuba Restricted List.
Importantly for this policy shift, the State Department compiled the list of entities under the control of, or acting for or on behalf of, the Cuban military, intelligence, or security services or personnel with which direct financial transactions were prohibited “as it would disproportionately benefit such services or personnel at the expense of the Cuban people or private enterprise in Cuba.” This Cuba Restricted List includes various Cuban government ministries, state-owned holding companies, numerous hotels, tourist agencies and marinas, as well as multiple entities directly serving the defense and security sectors of the Cuban economy. The list will be updated as necessary, and State has clarified that entities or subentities owned or controlled by another entity or subentity on the Cuba Restricted List are not treated as restricted unless specifically named on the list. The State Department has updated this list on six occasions including most recently on June 12, 2020. This recent update added six new Cuban entities:
- Hotel Marqués de Cardenas de Montehermoso
- Hotel Regis
- Pestana Cayo Coco (also Hotel Playa Paraiso)
- Centro de Buceo Varadero
- Centro Internacional de Buceo Gaviota Las Molas
- Delfinario Cayo Naranjo
The State Department has republished the Cuba Restriction List in its entirety in the Federal Register. Companies considering doing business in Cuba are reminded of the significant re-implementation of U.S. export control and financial restrictions toward Cuba by President Trump and that due diligence during any transaction and consideration of the need for any BIS or OFAC licenses is critical.