Restoring Executive Authority Over U.S. Policy Toward Cuba


Restoring Executive Authority Eng featuredThis whitepaper released in February of 2013 calls on the U.S. Government to de-codify the embargo via the repeal of Helms-Burton and related statutory provisions that deny the Executive Branch the flexibility to use the entire range of foreign policy tools at its disposal to incentivize change in Cuba. The document also outlines eleven steps the Executive can take under existing licensing authority to secure and expand the free flow of resources and information to the Cuban people.


In this whitepaper, we acknowledge that the codification of U.S. sanctions toward Cuba under Helms-Burton and its related statutory provisions in the Cuba Democracy Act and Trade Sanction Reform Act have been grossly ineffective in advancing the cause of change in Cuba. We call for the de-codification of these sanctions through the repeal of Helms Burton and its related statutory provisions and for the restoration of Executive authority over U.S. policy toward Cuba. We also outline eleven measures the Executive Branch can take immediately to safeguard the flow of information and resources into the Island, encourage greater independent economic and political activity, and further empower Cuban civil society, including: 

i) Modify Remittance and Export Limitations: Increase the $3,000 limit on remittances that can be carried to Cuba by authorized travelers and expand the types of goods that travelers may legally take to Cuba to support micro entrepreneurs. Fewer limitations in these areas will make it easier for U.S. travelers to provide seed capital and in-kind contributions for start-ups.

ii) Authorize Travel by General License for NGOs and Allow Them to Open Cuban Bank Accounts: Regulations enacted on January 28, 2011 allow U.S. full- and part-time university staff to travel to Cuba by general license. These regulations also allow U.S.-based academic institutions to open accounts in Cuban banks with funds to support their educational programs in Cuba. A similar license for foundations and NGOs whose mission involves support for micro and small businesses would also help support this growing segment of civil society.

iii) Establish New Licenses for the Provision of Services to Cuban Private Entrepreneurs: The President could build on existing authorizations that allow U.S. persons and institutions to pay individual Cuban scholars,musicians and artists for their work. New licenses could extend to additional groups, such as artisans or farmers, and authorize a greater scope of activities such as recording, publication, distribution, etc.

iv) Authorize Imports of Certain Goods and Services to Businesses and Individuals Engaged in Certifiably Independent Economic Activity in Cuba: The President could authorize the importation of limited types of Cuban-origin goods and services under general or specific licenses, particularly when such authorizations could be justified as providing support for the Cuban people or democratic change in Cuba. For example, the President could authorize imports from private producers or allow U.S. persons to directly engage and hire Cuban professionals.

v) Authorize Export and Sale of Goods and Services to Businesses and Individuals Engaged in Certifiably Independent Economic Activity in Cuba: Amend existing licensing policy to establish a presumption of approval for specific items deemed to support the U.S.-stated policy goal of promoting independent economic activity on the Island. Since 2000, legislation has allowed the export of a broad range of agricultural products and a limited range of medicines and medical devices. This should be expanded to include other inputs in demand by indepen- dent businesses, including—but not limited to—good such as art supplies, food preparation equipment, bookkeeping materials, and basic electronic equipment and software required for retail sales and business administration.

vi) Authorize the Sale of Telecommunications Hardware in Cuba: Current U.S. regulations, as amended by the Obama administration in 2009, allow for donations of some telecommunications equipment, thereby recognizing that these goods by themselves do not violate the embargo. The next step should be to allow for the sales of those same goods inside the Island. Along with those provisions, changes should also allow for the provision of general travel licenses for research, marketing and sale of those goods.

vii) Authorize the Reestablishment of Ferry Services to Cuba: Current U.S. regulations allow both “aircraft and vessels” to serve Cuba as an exception to the U.S. embargo against the Island.xxii The use of chartered aircrafts to transport Cuban-Americans and other licensed U.S. travelers to and from Cuba has long been authorized by the U.S. Department of Treasury. The next step should be to reestablish safe and secure chartered ferry services to transport the same categories of passengers to and from Cuba. Ferry service offers an affordable alternative to airline travel to Cuba and would allow an increase in the amount of goods that Cuban-Americans and other licensed travelers may legally take to Cuba to support their families and micro entrepreneurs.

viii) Simplify the Provision of Controlled Commodities, such as Computers and Laptops: Direct the Department of Commerce to provide more detailed guidance for individuals to determine whether or not controlled commodities, such as laptops and printers, qualify under the general export waiver.

ix) Allow Licensed U.S. Travelers Access to U.S.-Issued Debit, Credit, and Pre-Paid Cards and Other Financial Services While on Authorized Travel in Cuba: Currently, U.S. travelers to Cuba have no access to U.S. bank accounts, credit cards, debit cards or other basic financial services. With few exceptions, U.S. travelers are forced to carry cash with them to Cuba. Allowing U.S. travelers access to electronic payment systems would help ensure their safety and security while being on the Island. Moreover, authorizing new electronic payment systems would facilitate the Administration’s goal of promoting people-to-people contacts and facilitating private economic activity by safeguarding the transfer of money from U.S. residents to relatives and independent entrepreneurs on the island.

x) Review Cuba’s Designation as a State Sponsor of Terrorism: Cuba’s status on the State Department’s list of state sponsors of terrorism has been subject to debate for more than a decade. The President should order a comprehensive, apolitical review to determine whether this designation reflects the reality of Cuba today.

xi) Develop an expanded bilateral agenda with a range of specific topics of mutual interest: Agenda should include topics such as the resolution of property claims to help foster an environment of dialogue, problem- solving and trust building— thereby helping to set the stage for an eventual normalization of relations. 

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Listen to the Release of the Whitepaper

  • Press call announcing the release of the whitepaper

    Cuba Study Group Chairman Carlos Saladrigas announces the release of the whitepaper on a teleconference with members of the media on February 20, 2013.

Download Press Releases

  • CSG Press Release CSG press release in announcing release of whitepaper on February 20, 2013 (English). (88.2 KBs)
  • Comunicado de Prensa del CSG Comunicado de prensa del CSG anunciando su nuevo documento de opinión el día 20 de febrero de 2013 (Castellano). (86.3 KBs)