December 2014

How the OFAC Stole Christmas

Reprinted with permission from Clif Burns of the Export Law Blog.

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 […]

TOP Questions and Answers on Obama’s Cuba Announcement

Top Questions and Answers in regards to the December 17, 2014 announcement by President Obama stating the U.S. will lay out “a new course in our relations with Cuba.”

Q: Will Cuban cigars be readily available for U.S. consumers? A: No.

Q: Will the Sanctions imposed by the Cuban Assets Control Regulations end? A: No, that would require Congressional approval.

Q: Will the changes take effect immediately? A: No, OFAC made it clear, changes will not be effective immediately. The changes may take place, but, the overall Cuba Sanctions will still stand. In order for the changes to take place OFAC has to amend its Cuban Assets Control Regulations and the Department of Commerce has to change its Export Administration Regulations. None of the changes will take effect until the new regulations are issued. OFAC advised it “expects to issue its regulatory amendments in the coming weeks”.

Q: Will any U.S. person be able to travel to Cuba for any reason? A: No, there are 12 specific “authorized traveler” categories, only those will be authorized to travel to Cuba. Q: What are the 12 specific “authorized traveler” categories? A: Family visits; official business of the U.S. government, foreign governments, and certain intergovernmental organizations; journalism; professional research and professional meetings; educational; religious; public performances, clinics, workshops, athletic and other competitions, and exhibitions; support for the Cuban people; humanitarian projects; activities of private foundations or research or educational institutes; exportation, importation, or transmission of information or information materials; and certain export transactions that may be considered for authorization under existing regulations and guidelines.

Q: Will any of […]

Congressional Response to President Obama’s Announcement on Future Relations with Cuba

In a Miami Herald article published today, Congressional opposition to President Obama’s announcement that the U.S. will lay out “a new course in our relations with Cuba” was discussed.
My blog post yesterday highlights the key changes President Obama announced that effect travel, trade and commerce. Today, Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen issued a statement in regards to the proposed changes:

“The liberalization policies aimed at easing trade and remittances to Cuba … is quite possible that this unilateral action by the President without Congressional consultation is in violation of the following U.S. laws: Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity (LIBERTAD) Act of 1996 [Helms-Burton Act], Cuban Democracy Act of 1992, and the Trading with the Enemy Act. The White House attempts to normalize relationships with Cuba without the approval of Congress may be in direct violation of Helms-Burton that specifically states that all political prisoners must be released and free and fair elections must be held before establishing a diplomatic relationship.”

Each of the three acts mentioned may be found here:

What remains unclear is how the President will receive funding for the proposed course of action with Cuba, as Congress must approve the budget.

According to the Herald article, Senator Marco Rubio stated he would use his role as the incoming chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s Western Hemisphere subcommittee to block the reforms, calling them a “a […]

Business with Cuba – What’s Legal and What’s Not?

By now, you’ve likely seen the many news stories about the BIG announcement made today by our President. The news release starts by stating… “Today, the United States is taking historic steps to chart a new course in our relations with Cuba and to further engage and empower the Cuban people.” Whatever your personal and/or political beliefs are, this is big news and potentially big opportunity for those who heed it. The legality of importing Cuban cigars is one of the many changes discussed below. Read on for the full details.

PRESIDENTS ANNOUNCEMENT – Summarized from the White House Fact Sheet found here: The key changes President Obama discussed relating to TRADE are (read the full fact sheet for all other changes):

  1. General licenses will be made available for all authorized travelers in the following existing categories: (1) family visits; (2) official business of the U.S. government, foreign governments, and certain intergovernmental organizations; (3) journalistic activity; (4) professional research and professional meetings; (5) educational activities; (6) religious activities; (7) public performances, clinics, workshops, athletic and other competitions, and exhibitions; (8) support for the Cuban people; (9) humanitarian projects; (10) activities of private foundations or research or educational institutes; (11) exportation, importation, or transmission of information or information materials; and (12) certain export transactions that may be considered for authorization under existing regulations and guidelines.
  2. Authorizing expanded commercial sales/exports from the United States of certain goods and services-
    • Items that will be authorized for export include certain building […]
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