Archive for the ‘Cuba Sanctions’ Category


Feb

11

House of Castro: Francis Underwood Goes to Havana


Posted by at 11:15 pm on February 11, 2015
Category: Cuba SanctionsOFAC

Netflix HQ by Coolcaesar at the English language Wikipedia [GFDL (www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)], via Wikimedia Commons http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3ANetflix_headquarters.jpg [Cropped]Netflix just announced that it was going to offer its streaming service in Cuba, starting at $7.99 per month. Of course, under the information exception of the Berman Amendment, Netflix has always been able to stream its movies to Cuba without violating U.S. sanctions on Cuba.

Of course, as you might imagine, the reason that Netflix did not start streaming to Cuba earlier was the difficulty Netflix would have in getting paid. Now that the revisions to the Cuba sanctions have opened up the possibility for American credit card companies to do business in Cuba, payment becomes at least a theoretical possibility. Theoretical because $7.99 per month is out of reach of most Cubans given the average monthly wage of $17 and given the cost of Internet in Cuba where access to international sites, like Netflix, costs $4 per hour. Watching a two-hour movie on Netflix would leave about $1 to spend for rent, food and all other monthly expenses. (And you thought going to the movies at the local cineplex was expensive!)

The Netflix press release notes that “House of Cards” and “Orange is the New Black” will both be made available to Cuban subscribers. So, my question is this: which of these two will Fidel and Raúl binge watch first? The political machinations of Francis Underwood in “House of Cards” or the comic prison shenanigans of the women in “Orange is the New Black?”

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Jan

29

The Case of the Missing Cuba Embargo Regulations


Posted by at 9:25 pm on January 29, 2015
Category: BISCrimea SanctionsCuba SanctionsOFAC

Cuba Capitole by y.becart(Own work) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Flickr https://www.flickr.com/photos/yoh_59/13697566663The recent OFAC amendments to the Cuba embargo regulations, and related statements by OFAC, went to great pains to make clear that, notwithstanding these changes, the embargo was still in place. That being said, it is somewhat perplexing that the Cuba Assets Control Regulations have disappeared, or at least most of the Cuba Assets Control Regulations have disappeared from OFAC’s website.

If you go to OFAC’s page on the Cuba sanctions, and then scroll down to the bottom, you will see under “Code of Federal Regulations” a link for “31 CFR Part 515 – Cuban Assets Control Regulations.” Click on that link, and it will take you here, which is the Federal Register notice with just the amended regulations. The other regulations are nowhere to be found. Maybe OFAC did repeal the Cuba embargo after all?

In another example of epic Web fail, BIS today promulgated new regulations relating to the Crimea Sanctions, which can be found here in the Federal Register. But if you go to the BIS website, the new rules are nowhere to be found. They are not mentioned in the slider at the top listing other current developments. They are not even mentioned in the BIS Newsroom where the latest entry is — seriously — July 22, 2014. What? No news at all for 6 months??

As to the new Crimea regulations themselves, I am not at all sure what they mean. I’ll post on them once I figure that out.

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Jan

29

Buy Me Some Peanuts and OFAC-jacks


Posted by at 1:13 am on
Category: BaseballCuba SanctionsOFAC

Yoan Moncada via MLB http://js.mlblogs.com/2014/06/30/cuban-inf-prospect-yoan-moncada-has-left-the-island/ [Fair Use]
ABOVE: Yoan Moncado


It’s cold outside. It’s been snowing. So it’s time, of course, to dream of spring training and the boys of summer. Let’s talk baseball. And OFAC. Batter up!

Baseball blogs, reporters and social media are a-twitter that Yoan Moncado, the 19-year-old baseball phenomenon from Cuba, is not currently able to sign with a Major League Baseball team because of OFAC and the embargo against Cuba.

The new Cuba regulations leave in place the general license, useful mostly to baseball teams, which unblocks Cuban nationals after they have taken up permanent residence in a country outside Cuba. Once a Cuban baseball player has been unblocked, he can be signed by a U.S. baseball team.

Moncado, it seems, has become a permanent resident of Guatemala. So what’s the hold-up? Well, it’s not OFAC. It’s worse. It’s fear of OFAC. Notwithstanding the provision unblocking Moncado, MLB, apparently fearing the ire of OFAC (and a mega-fine) if evidence of permanent residence outside Cuba is faked, still requires a specific license from OFAC prior to allowing a team to sign a Cuban player. The problem is OFAC is apparently saying that it won’t issue a specific license when the conditions for the general license are met. Unstoppable force, meet immovable object. Immovable object, meet unstoppable force.

According to an MLB memo, reported here, MLB and OFAC are in discussions to resolve this impasse. Don’t break out the Cuban cigars yet to celebrate Moncado’s signing.

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Jan

20

No Cigar for You!


Posted by at 10:13 pm on January 20, 2015
Category: BISCuba SanctionsOFAC

Cuba Capitole by y.becart(Own work) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Flickr https://www.flickr.com/photos/yoh_59/13697566663The recent revisions to the U.S. sanctions on Cuba has generated a great deal of press coverage and, not surprisingly, more enthusiasm than accuracy. Here are a few bloopers I’ve seen recently.

The NBC outlet in Miami announced that the new regulations, released on January 15, would permit “South Florida cigar shops [to] soon be able to carry cigars from Cuba.” The only delay would be the time it will take those shops to “stock up” on the cigars. Nope. The amended section 515.560(c)(3) can bring back these products “for personal use only.”

It comes as less of a shock that the online news outlet Havana Times would say this:

The only thing you have to do to go to Cuba is book your travel. No government forms, no permissions, no licences. Just go.

Nope, again. U.S. travelers have to qualify for one of the twelve general licenses set out in 515.560. The only change is that you don’t need to wait for a specific license from OFAC. But you can’t get on a plane to go sip mojitos on the beach since, at least at the moment, there is no general license for drinking or sunbathing.

It comes as more of a shock, that the Huffington Post would suggest that Americans should get on a plane to “soak up some sun at Tropicoco Beach.” To give HuffPost some benefit of the doubt, let’s suppose they meant taking time off from an activity eligible for a general license to spend a little beach time. Whether you can or not, depends on what is meant by a “full-time schedule” since these general licenses normally require a “full-time schedule” devoted to the eligible activity. In the past, OFAC has said that missionaries that took a few hours off to visit a beach violated this requirement.

The situation may be a little more favorable for journalists than missionaries because the amended regulations say that the journalist’s activities schedule of activities” cannot include “recreation in excess of that consistent with a full-time schedule.” The same language does not appear in the general license for missionaries or in the other general licenses.

And I’ve saved the best for last. A columnist for the Charlotte Observer, for reasons that are not entirely clear, wants to export Bruce Jenner to Cuba. Of course former U.S. Olympic athletes whose appearance offends a columnist in Charlotte is not among the category of items authorized for export to Cuba under the new BIS regulations. Besides, if we’re going to start shipping off celebrities to Cuba, my vote goes for sending Justin Bieber.

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Jan

15

New OFAC Cuba Regs Adopt the “Sicko” Exception


Posted by at 11:50 pm on January 15, 2015
Category: Cuba SanctionsOFAC

Promo Still for SickoBack in 2007, we published a post on OFAC’s inquiry into the Michael Moore film Sicko, a film that, it was safe to assume, was not on the current administrations list of 10 best films of the year. Having learned that filmmaker Moore filmed part of the documentary film Sicko in Cuba without a license claiming he had the right to do so under the general license for journalistic activities, OFAC demanded that Moore provide proof that he was “regularly employed as a journalist by a news-reporting organization.” We found this an odd request given that OFAC had not been similarly miffed when Charlize Theron filmed a documentary on hip-hop in Cuba claiming eligibility under the general license for journalism. Of course, Theron’s film was critical of Castro and Moore’s was not.

Well, the new Cuba regulations, which were released today and which implement the changes previously announced by the White House, have a provision to put to rest whether a documentary filmmaker must be employed by CNN or the like (or at least say nasty things about Castro) in order to qualify for a general license to travel to Cuba. Under the amended section 515.564 relating to professional research, OFAC notes:

The making of a documentary film in Cuba would qualify for the general license in this section if it is a vehicle for presentation of the research conducted pursuant to this section.

This effectively takes the issue of Cuba documentaries out of the journalism general license and put them into the professional research general license, thus eliminating any need for the documentary filmmaker to prove regular employment by a news-reporting organization. Of course, under this analysis, the documentary filmmaker would have to establish that the film, and the research it embodies, relates to the filmmaker’s “area of expertise.” That probably means that Justin Bieber can’t go to Cuba to film a documentary on, say, alternate dispute resolution mechanisms, filmmakers like Michael Moore can go to Cuba to film segments related to their documentary projects.

(I’ll have more to say about the new regulations over the weekend.)

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