U.S. Think Tank Urges President to Allow More Openings With Cuba

CUBA STANDARD — In an effort to support small business in Cuba, the New York-based  Americas Society/Council of the Americas in a “Memo to the President” is urging the White House to allow more openings for U.S. activities.

Cuban and American flags are pictured. | AP Photo

Cuban and American flags are pictured. | AP Photo

The group suggests the Obama administration should use its executive authority to increase the scope for U.S. non-government organizations to provide microcredit and support, and should provide specific allowances for telecommunications and limited commerce.

Economic reforms in Cuba and U.S. measures that expanded remittances and travel have grown the pool of privately owned businesses to 450,000 in just a couple of years.

These small businesses provide “an important source of income and independence not just for the individual entrepreneurs, but also for the growing number of Cubans who rely on these services and products,” the AS/COA memo argues.

“Given the level of economic need in Cuba, changing policy to allow for support to independent entrepreneurs is not just a humanitarian consideration; it also supports a fundamental, enduring American value: the right to free commerce,” the think tank said in a press release.

Specifically, AS/COA suggests the president allow for humanitarian travel licenses for U.S. citizens that provide professional services to independent Cuban entrepreneurs; authorize the import and export of certain goods and services between U.S. private sector and independent Cuban entrepreneurs; provide specific licenses to allow NGOs and other micro lenders to lend directly to independent farmers, cooperatives and micro enterprises in Cuba; promote exchange studies between U.S.-based cooperatives and private cooperatives in Cuba; and grant application-free travel for business-to-business exchanges.

Last year, the think tank laid out a series of steps to support entrepreneurship in Cuba, including allowing the sale of telecommunications hardware and for U.S. travelers to have access to pre-paid cards and other financial services.

U.S.-based NGOs such as the Miami-based Cuba Study Group would like to engage in micro lending, and Berkeley, Cal.-based Sol Economics is planning a trip for U.S. cooperative leaders to Cuba in July, with the idea of providing support to Cuban co-ops. However, U.S. sanctions are complicating such plans.

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