On their own, the changes to regulations enacted in 2017 by the Trump Administration have materially impacted the Republic of Cuba.
The regulations coupled with the lessening of economic support from Venezuela, increase in oil price imports, decrease in agricultural product exports, increase in cost of overall imports, and self-imposed impediments on the re-emerging self-employed will have the Republic of Cuba’s challenging 2017 continuing through 2018 and into 2019 unless the Diaz-Canel Administration takes dramatic, and potentially destabilizing actions.
The Diaz-Canel Administration may be a one-term transitional moment in a series of moments as its success may ironically be defined by the pain that is inflicted upon the population, which must be for 11.3 million citizens of the Republic of Cuba to be tomorrow what they are not today.
The Diaz-Canel Administration will preside over the destabilizing merging of the dual currencies, the implementation of the constitutional changes recommended by the commission led by his predecessor, General Raul Castro, the lessening of the role of the government throughout society, and a realignment of the relationship with the United States.
Its most fundamental societal role will be to guide government institutions and a population made suspicious of self-employed “success” to appreciate the role of “success” in a society. What it means for the self-employed to be “successful” and to what level those residing on the 800-mile long archipelago need accept differences in income will be a lengthy debate.
The Trump Administration regulatory changes most impacted travel to Cuba by individuals subject to United States jurisdiction.
The announcement of the regulations and implementation of the regulations by the United States Department of the Treasury, United States Department of Commerce, and United States Department of State were crafted and presented in a manner designed to create uncertainty with goals of fewer individuals subject to United States jurisdiction visiting the Republic of Cuba and fewer United States companies seeking engagement with the Republic of Cuba. Both goals have succeeded.
Although the regulatory changes were written in a manner which lessened their direct impact, and retained most travel-related opportunities, cruise lines benefited while airlines saw fewer passengers.
Once seemingly contradictory regulation: An individual subject to United States jurisdiction may not directly make payment to an entity listed by the United States Department of State as under the control of or affiliated with the Revolutionary Armed Forces (FAR) of the Republic of Cuba. However, an indirect payment may be permitted.
Important to remember that the Trump Administration was only able to do what it did because the Obama Administration and Castro Administration failed to do more when they were in office.
Had both administrations been more proactive and planned for a November 2016 outcome other than a victory by Hillary Clinton, the bilateral commercial landscape would have been rooted in such a manner that the Trump Administration would have been far more cautious in what it implemented in 2017. That’s the tragedy.