The US Allows Cuban Entrepreneurs To Open Bank Accounts Online

The decision was communicated this Tuesday by the US Department of the Treasury. / EFE

14ymedio biggerEFE/14ymedio, Washington/Madrid, May 28, 2024 — The United States has announced that as of this Tuesday it will allow entrepreneurs in Cuba to open and use US bank accounts over the internet to carry out financial transactions.

In a statement, the Treasury Department explained that the decision seeks to “promote internet freedom in Cuba, support independent entrepreneurs in the private sector and expand access to certain financial services for the Cuban people.”

Until now, Cubans who visited the United States could open bank accounts in that country, but they could not use them once they returned to Cuba due to the embargo that weighs on the Island.

The Treasury Department detailed that, as of May 28, Cuban entrepreneurs are authorized to “remotely open, maintain and use US bank accounts through an online payment platform to carry out authorized transactions,” whether from the United States, Cuba or any other country in the world.

 It also updated its definition of a Cuban entrepreneur to include cooperatives and companies with up to 100 employees

The United States also updated its definition of a Cuban entrepreneur, from “self-employed individuals” to “independent private sector entrepreneur.” This includes, in addition to self-employed workers, cooperatives and small private companies with up to 100 employees. Excluded from that definition, however, are government officials and members of the Cuban Communist Party who are sanctioned by the United States.

Similarly, the Joe Biden Administration updated the regulations regarding internet services allowed in Cuba, including social media platforms, videoconferencing, games and maps. From now on, the export of software of Cuban origin from the United States to other countries is also authorized so that Cuban entrepreneurs can offer these services through stores offering global mobile phone applications.

“OFAC (Office of Foreign Assets Control) also clarifies that persons subject to US jurisdiction can provide cloud-based services (including remote data storage, data transport service, data distribution networks content, virtual machines, software as a service and infrastructure as a service) to support services related to the exchange of communications over the Internet,” the statement says.

Finally, OFAC announced that it is restoring an authorization for so-called “return” transactions, that is “transfers of funds that originate and terminate outside the United States, where neither the sender nor the beneficiary are subject to the US jurisdiction,” something that had been eliminated in September 2019, under the Administration of then-President Donald Trump.

 That private Cubans could operate a bank account in the United States from the Island was something that has been announced as imminent for months

Cuba described the permission granted by Washington for entrepreneurs from the Island as a “limited measure.”

For the Government of Cuba, the new provisions of President Joe Biden’s Administration “exclude the majority of the population,” in addition to “they do not touch the body of the blockade [i.e. the US economic embargo on the Island] nor do they modify the extreme measures” implemented during the presidency of Donald Trump (2017-2021).

“If it means a real opening and not an election-related announcement, the Government of Cuba is determined not to hinder its implementation,” said Johana Tablada, Deputy Director for U.S. Affairs at Cuba’s Foreign Ministry, speaking at a press conference.

Tablada stressed that “it will be very difficult” to apply the measures due to Havana remaining on the list of countries that sponsor terrorism.

“It will be very difficult for a Cuban to find a bank (…) that wants to open an account,” she stressed.  

That Cuban private individuals could operate a bank account in the United States from the Island was something that had been announced as imminent for months, although last January the Government of Joe Biden denied that it was going to do so.

In September 2023, various American media published that the Administration would take measures to help Cuban micro, small and medium-sized businesses (MSMEs) that same week , not only allowing them to open an account, but also annulling the prohibitions imposed by the Administration. of Donald Trump on transactions with third countries to send remittances to the Island.

The plan, however, sparked controversy on both sides of the Florida Straits among those who see MSMEs as “Trojan horses”: “Ideological communists perceive them as a threat to the Cuban Revolution, now in its 64th year. The anti-communist exiles in South Florida suspect that they are a front for the successors of the Castro brothers,” said a report published in the Palm Beach Post at that time.

One of the most vehement opponents of this measure is the Republican congresswoman of Cuban origin María Elvira Salazar, who in January warned that many owners of these new businesses are actually people linked to the Cuban Government, which she defined as “the Hamas of the continent.”

In fact, Congresswoman Salazar was one of the first to react to the Treasury Department’s announcement this Tuesday. Through social networks, she criticized that the Biden Administration is giving the Cuban private sector access to the US financial system, arguing that “no progress has been made towards freedom on the Island and that repression has intensified.”

Congressman Carlos Giménez, born in Havana, spoke in the same vein, criticizing Joe Biden for “granting more concessions to the murderous regime in Cuba.” He added that the White House is complicit with Havana and that “it is perpetuating the Castro dictatorship in power and has left the Cubans who fight for freedom in total abandonment.”


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