How the OFAC Stole Christmas

Posted by at 11:50 am on December 23, 2015
Category: Cuba SanctionsOFAC

Santa Flanked by F-16

A spokesman for the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (“OFAC”) told Export Law Blog this morning that discussions between OFAC and the North Pole over Santa Claus’s Christmas Eve itinerary had once again broken down and were not expected to be resumed before Santa’s scheduled departure on December 24 at 10 pm EST.

The dispute arose from a dilemma that the U.S. sanctions against Cuba posed for Santa’s planned delivery of toys to children in Cuba. If Santa delivers toys for U.S. children first, there will be toys destined for Cuba in the sleigh in violation of 31 C.F.R. § 515.207(b). That rule prohibits Santa’s sleigh from entering the United States with “goods in which Cuba or a Cuban national has an interest.” On the other hand, if Santa delivers the toys to Cuban children first, then 31 C.F.R. § 515.207(a) prohibits the sleigh from entering the United States and “unloading freight for a period of 180 days from the date the vessel departed from a port or place in Cuba.”

A press release from the North Pole announced that the OFAC rules left Santa no choice but to bypass the children of the United States this Christmas. A spokesman from OFAC warned that if Santa attempted to overfly the United States, his sleigh would be forced to land and his cargo seized. He continued:

We know that the outcome is harsh, but we cannot allow the Cuban regime to continue to be propped up by Santa’s annual delivery of valuable Christmas toys to Cuban children. We told Santa that, as long as he only delivered food, books, and mobile phones to children in Cuba he would be eligible to enter the United States under the exception in § 515.550, but he insisted on delivering teddy bears as well. We draw the line at teddy bears, so in our view it’s his fault, not ours.

Congressional leaders did not return our calls.

This post is an annual tradition and has appeared every year since 2007. Alert readers will notice a slight change in this year’s post.

Export Law Blog would like to take the opportunity of this post to extend its best holiday wishes to all of its readers. Posting will be light between now and the end of the holidays.


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Copyright © 2015 Clif Burns. All Rights Reserved.
(No republication, syndication or use permitted without my consent.)


I am surprised that Cuba permits the import of stuffed animals named for the imperialist Theodore Roosevelt, but the ways of jolly toymakers whose bellies shake like a bowl full of jelly are a mystery to me.

Clif, thanks for continuing to post this. Each time I read it, it’s a reminder that as serious as our various jobs are, we can find humor in the situations created by the requirements we have to follow.

Comment by SK on December 23rd, 2015 @ 2:29 pm

Wouldn’t Santa be able to travel to Cuba for Religious activities under 515.566?

Comment by Marc on December 24th, 2015 @ 10:14 am

    The problem with that theory is that he would exceed that general license when he ate the milk and cookies left for him at each house. Also, I suppose, that leaving toys alone, without some effort to proselytize the Cuban children, would not be, strictly speaking, a religious activity

    Comment by Clif Burns on December 29th, 2015 @ 9:41 pm