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Supporting Cuba’s Entrepeneurs

Above: Havana

By the Caribbean Journal staff

The United States’ approach to Cuba in large part about “empowering the Cuban people and Cuban civil society,” the State Department said Friday in a statement.

The State Department said in a media note that the country’s recent rapprochement with its Caribbean neighbour, including regulatory changes issued by the Department of Commerce and the Treasury, “create new opportunities for Cuba’s nascent private sector.”

“These measures will help independent Cuban entrepreneurs access the information and resources they need to improve their living standards and gain greater economic independence from the state,” the department said.

On Friday, the State Department issued a new list characterizing goods and services produced by independent Cuban entrepreneurs that can now be imported into the United States.

Crucially, though, any importer of such goods must obtain “documentary evidence” that the goods were produced by an independent Cuban entrepeneur — ie, that the entrepeneur is a private entity not owned or controlled by the Cuban government.

At this point, though, it’s not clear whether Cuba’s government will actually allow independent entrepreneurs to export goods to the US.

“We cannot predict what the Cuban government will or will not allow, but we sincerely hope that it makes this and other new opportunities available to Cuba’s nascent private sector,” the government said. “This is another measure intended to support the ability of the Cuban people to gain greater control over their own lives and determine their country’s future.”

The US was vague on the specific kinds of goods that might be exported (the list referred to those items whose export was prohibited); the State Department said the private sector included “self-employed individuals, private small businesses, and private cooperatives that are independent of Cuba’s state sector.”

As of last month, Americans can now send unlimited remittances to individual Cubans to support private businesses and even engage in certain micro-finance activities and the like.

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