U.S. hits Cuba with new sanctions over human rights, Venezuela

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Today, Eric Beech (Reuters) reported that the United States is imposing new sanctions on Cuba over its human rights record and its support for Venezuela’s government. The U.S. Commerce Department said that it will restrict Cuba’s access to commercial aircraft by revoking existing licenses for aircraft leases to Cuban state-owned airlines and denying future applications for aircraft leases. The United States will also expand sanctions to include more foreign goods containing U.S. content and impose additional restrictions on exports to the Cuban government, the statement said. In an earlier article, Reuters reported:

Tougher U.S. sanctions against Cuba have led international banks to avoid transactions involving the island, while prospective overseas investors put plans on hold and foreign firms operating in the country consider restructuring to lower their risk exposure.

Just a few years ago, foreign businesses were rushing to take a firsthand look at Cuba’s opening economy, lured by the Communist government’s market reforms and a detente pursued by former U.S. President Barack Obama. Yet two dozen Western executives, consultants and diplomats interviewed by Reuters said President Donald Trump’s reversal of that detente and ratcheting up of the U.S. trade embargo have poisoned the business climate, in combination with Cuba’s homegrown economic woes.

On top of the decades-old embargo, the Trump administration has sanctioned nearly 200 Cuban military-run companies and hotels as well as any company or vessel involved with shipping Venezuelan oil to Cuba. In April, Trump also activated Title III of the 1996 Helms-Burton Act, which allows Americans to sue U.S. and international companies profiting from property that was nationalized or confiscated after Cuba’s 1959 Revolution.

American Airlines, Melia Hotels International, Amazon Inc and French lender Societe Generale are among the companies that have been slapped with lawsuits under the Helms-Burton Act, which they are contesting in court. [. . .] Many Western banks have long refused Cuba-related business for fear of running afoul of U.S. sanctions and facing hefty fines, as well as the country’s poor credit history. Now, the combination of Trump’s aggressive stance, the complications of new sanctions and fear of being sued under Helms-Burton are deterring the few that remained.

PostFinance, the last Swiss bank to process Cuba-related transactions, informed clients last month it would no longer do so. Bank spokesman Rinaldo Tibolla said in an email PostFinance relied on a trust-based network of correspondent banks as well as access to U.S. dollar payments. “There is a risk that we will be excluded from this access if payments to Cuba, which may be subject to U.S. sanctions, are allowed to continue,” he said.

Panama’s Multibank shut down numerous Cuba-related accounts this year and European banks are restricting clients associated with Cuba to their own nationals, if that. Asked about the closures, Multibank said in a statement it constantly revised its foreign accounts from the perspective of regulations and risk. Businessmen and diplomats said large French banks, including Societe Generale, no longer want anything to do with Cuba and some are stopping payments to pensioners living on the Caribbean island. Neither Societe General nor Paribas, both of which have been sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury Department, responded to a request for comment.

But for the first time in years, the island has had problems financing the upcoming sugar harvest. Various joint venture projects, from golf resorts to alternative energy, are finding it nearly impossible to obtain private credit, the executives, diplomats and other sources consulted by Reuters said.

Even Cuban embassies abroad are finding it more difficult to open accounts, Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez told a news conference in Havana this month as he blasted sanctions as “genocidal.” “Financial sanctions are weapons of mass destruction,” said John Kavulich, president of the U.S.-Cuba Trade and Economic Council, which closely follows U.S.-Cuban relations. [. . .]

[Photo above (cropped): Tourists in a vintage car pass by the U.S. Embassy in Havana, Cuba, November 1, 2018. REUTERS/Alexandre Meneghini.]

For full article, see https://www.reuters.com/article/us-cuba-sanctions-investment-analysis/tougher-u-s-sanctions-make-cuba-ever-more-difficult-for-western-firms-idUSKBN1WO2LP

Also see https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-cuba/u-s-hits-cuba-with-new-sanctions-over-human-rights-venezuela-idUSKBN1WX2I2, https://oncubanews.com/cuba-ee-uu/eeuu-aplica-nuevas-restricciones-a-la-exportaciones-a-cuba/? and https://oncubanews.com/en/cuba-usa/restrictions-on-remittances-and-other-u-s-sanctions-against-cuba-come-into-force/

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