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Barack Obama changes U.S. policy toward Cuba -- full text

April 13, 2009 |  6:40 pm

Cuba's Fidel Castro in his hospital bed

While the kids rolled Easter eggs in the White House lawn, President Barack Obama unveiled today another dramatic change in U.S.  foreign policy, which he called "Reaching out to the Cuban people."

Last week, as The Ticket reported here, Cuba's Fidel Castro asked three visiting members of Congress how he could help the new Democratic president.

The moves, presaged by candidate Obama during the long primary and general election campaigns, are outlined here both in a presidential memorandum to three Cabinet secretaries and in an attached White House fact sheet. First, the Obama memo:

April 13, 2009
MEMORANDUM FOR THE SECRETARY OF STATE, THE SECRETARY OF THE TREASURY, THE SECRETARY OF COMMERCE

SUBJECT: Promoting Democracy and Human Rights in Cuba

The promotion of democracy and human rights in Cuba is in the national interest of the United States and is a key component of this Nation's foreign policy in the Americas. Measures that decrease dependency of the Cuban people on the Castro regime and that promote contacts between Cuban-Americans and their relatives in Cuba are means to encourage positive change in Cuba.

The United States can pursue these goals by facilitating greater contact between separated family members in the United States and Cuba and increasing the flow of remittances and information to the Cuban people.

To pursue those ends, I direct the Secretary of the Treasury and the Secretary of Commerce, in consultation with the Secretary of State, to take such actions as necessary to:

(a) Lift restrictions on travel-related transactions for visits to a person's family member who is a national of Cuba by authorizing such transactions by a general license that shall:

Define family members who may be visited to be persons within three degrees of family....

...relationship (e.g., second cousins) and to allow individuals who share a common dwelling as a family with an authorized traveler to accompany them;

Remove limitations on the frequency of visits;

Remove limitations on the duration of a visit;

Authorize expenditure amounts that are the same as non-family travel; and

Remove the 44-pound limitation on accompanied baggage.

(b) Remove restrictions on remittances to a person's family member in Cuba by:

Authorizing remittances to individuals within three degrees of family relationship (e.g., second cousins) provided that no remittances shall be authorized to currently prohibited members of the Government of Cuba or currently prohibited members of the Cuban Communist Party;

Removing limits on frequency of remittances;

Removing limits on the amount of remittances;

Authorizing travelers to carry up to $3,000 in remittances; and

Establishing general license for banks and other depository institutions to forward remittances

(c) Authorize U.S. telecommunications network providers to enter into agreements to establish fiber-optic cable and satellite telecommunications facilities linking the United States and Cuba.

(d) License U.S. telecommunications service providers to enter into and operate under roaming service agreements with Cuba's telecommunications service providers.

(e) License U.S. satellite radio and satellite television service providers to engage in transactions necessary to provide services to customers in Cuba.

(f) License persons subject to U.S. jurisdiction to activate and pay U.S. and third-country service providers for telecommunications, satellite radio, and satellite television services provided to individuals in Cuba, except certain senior Communist Party and Cuban government officials.

President Barack Obama presides over White House Easter Egg Roll 4-13-09

(g) Authorize, consistent with national security concerns, the export or reexport to Cuba of donated personal communications devices such as mobile phone systems, computers and software, and satellite receivers through a license exception.

(h) Expand the scope of humanitarian donations eligible for export through license exceptions by:

Restoring clothing, personal hygiene items, seeds, veterinary medicines and supplies, fishing equipment and supplies, and soap-making equipment to the list of items eligible to be included in gift parcel donations;

Restoring items normally exchanged as gifts by individuals in "usual and reasonable" quantities to the list of items eligible to be included in gift parcel donations;

Expanding the scope of eligible gift parcel donors to include any individual;

Expanding the scope of eligible gift parcel donees to include individuals other than Cuban Communist Party officials or Cuban government officials already prohibited from receiving gift parcels, or charitable, educational, or religious organizations not administered or controlled by the Cuban government; and

Increasing the value limit on non-food items to $800.

This memorandum is not intended to, and does not, create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or in equity by any party against the United States, its departments, agencies, or entities, its officers, employees, or agents, or any other person.

/s/ BARACK OBAMA

Cuba Policy Fact Sheet

Today, the Obama administration announced a series of changes in U.S. policy to reach out to the Cuban people in support of their desire to freely determine their country’s future. In taking these steps to help bridge the gap among divided Cuban families and promote the freer flow of information and humanitarian items to the Cuban people, President Obama is working to fulfill the goals he identified both during his presidential campaign and since taking office.

All who embrace core democratic values long for a Cuba that respects basic human, political and economic rights of all its citizens. President Obama believes these measures will help make that goal a reality.

Cuban American connections to family in Cuba are not only a basic right in humanitarian terms, but also our best tool for helping to foster the beginnings of grassroots democracy on the island.  There are no better ambassadors for freedom than Cuban Americans. 

Accordingly, President Obama will direct the Secretaries of State, Treasury, and Commerce to support the Cuban people’s desire for freedom and self-determination by lifting all restrictions on family visits and remittances as well as taking steps that will facilitate greater contact between separated family members in the United States and Cuba and increase the flow of information and humanitarian resources directly to the Cuban people. 

The President is also calling on the Cuban government to reduce the charges it levies on cash remittances sent to the island so family members can be assured they are receiving the support sent to them.

Specifically, the President has directed the Secretaries of State, Treasury and Commerce to take the needed steps to:

Lift all restrictions on transactions related to the travel of family members to Cuba.Remove restrictions on remittances to family members in Cuba.

Authorize U.S. telecommunications network providers to enter into agreements to establish fiber-optic cable and satellite telecommunications facilities linking the United States and Cuba.

License U.S. telecommunications service providers to enter into roaming service agreements with Cuba’s telecommunications service providers.

License U.S. satellite radio and satellite television service providers to engage in transactions necessary to provide services to customers in Cuba.

License persons subject to U.S. jurisdiction to activate and pay U.S. and third-country service providers for telecommunications, satellite radio and satellite television services provided to individuals in Cuba.

Authorize the donation of certain consumer telecommunication devices without a license.

Add certain humanitarian items to the list of items eligible for export through licensing exceptions.

Supporting the Cuban people’s desire to freely determine their future and that of their country is in the national interest of the United States.  The Obama administration is taking steps to promote greater contact between separated family members in the United States and Cuba and increase the flow of remittances and information to the Cuban people.  

We will lift all restrictions on family visits to Cuba by authorizing such transactions by a general license, which will strengthen contacts and promote American good will. We will ensure the positive reach of this effort by: 

Defining family members who may be visited to be persons within three degrees of family relationship (e.g., second cousins) and to allow individuals who share a common dwelling as a family with an authorized traveler to accompany them;

Removing limitations on the frequency of visits.

Removing limitations on the duration of a visit;

Authorizing expenditure amounts that are the same as non-family travel; and

Removing the 44-pound limitation on accompanied baggage.

We will remove restrictions on remittances to a person’s family member in Cuba to increase Cubans’ access to resources to help create opportunities for them by:

Authorizing remittances to individuals within three degrees of family relationship (e.g., second cousins) provided that no remittances shall be authorized to currently prohibited members of the Government of Cuba or currently prohibited members of the Cuban Communist Party;

Obama clowns with the Easter Bunny Removing limits on frequency of remittances;

Removing limits on the amount of remittances;

Authorizing travelers to carry up to $3,000 in remittances; and

Establishing general license for banks and other depository institutions to forward remittances.

We will authorize greater telecommunications links with Cuba to advance people-to-people interaction at no cost to the U.S. government. This will increase the means through which Cubans on the island can communicate with each other and with persons outside of Cuba.

Authorize U.S. telecommunications network providers to enter into agreements to establish fiber-optic cable and satellite telecommunications facilities linking the United States and Cuba.

License U.S. telecommunications service providers to enter into and operate under roaming service agreements with Cuba's telecommunications service providers.

License U.S. satellite radio and satellite television service providers to engage in transactions necessary to provide services to customers in Cuba.

License persons subject to U.S. jurisdiction to activate and pay U.S. and third-country service providers for telecommunications, satellite radio and satellite television services provided to individuals in Cuba, except certain senior Communist Party and Cuban government officials.

Authorize, consistent with national security concerns, the export or re-export to Cuba of donated personal communications devices such as mobile phone systems, computers and software, and satellite receivers through a license exception.

We will expand the scope of humanitarian donations eligible for export through license exceptions by:

Restoring clothing, personal hygiene items, seeds, veterinary medicines and supplies, fishing equipment and supplies, and soap-making equipment to the list of items eligible to be included in gift parcel donations;

Restoring items normally exchanged as gifts by individuals in “usual and reasonable” quantities to the list of items eligible to be included in gift parcel donations;

Expanding the scope of eligible gift parcel donors to include any individual;

Expanding the scope of eligible gift parcel donees to include individuals other than Cuban Communist Party officials or Cuban government officials already prohibited from receiving gift parcels, or charitable, educational or religious organizations not administered or controlled by the Cuban government; and

 Increasing the value limit on non-food items to $800.    ###

-- Andrew Malcolm

Non-presidential memorandum to Ticket readers: Register here to receive instant Twitter alerts on all new Ticket items.

Photo: AFP / Getty (Cuba's Fidel Castro in hospital bed); Associated Press (Obama presides over White House Easter Egg Roll) and (Obama clowns with the Easter Bunny).

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