The U.S. government on Tuesday removed 28 Cuban companies, 11 boats, and six persons from its list of entities and individuals linked to terrorism or drug trafficking, a decision that “corresponds to President Barack Obama’s policy toward Cuba,” a U.S. Treasury spokesperson told el Nuevo Herald.
The Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), which supervises sanctions against Cuba, removed shipping and fishing companies, travel agencies, and boats that operated under Cyprus’ flag. Thirty of the entities are based in Panama, where Cuba has kept a strong presence.
Since Obama and Cuban President Raúl Castro announced in December plans to resume relations between the two countries after a 53-year hiatus, Cuba has reiterated that its inclusion on the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism is an obstacle for normalizing relations with the United States. The chief Cuban negotiator, Josefina Vidal, considered it a “priority” element in restoring diplomatic ties and opening embassies in the two countries. Washington’s decision is still pending, although Tuesday’s move indicates the U.S. might be moving in this direction.
According to OFAC regulations, persons or entities have the right to submit “arguments or evidence they believe could establish insufficient basis” for their being on the list, which is not considered exhaustive.
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In this case, “It’s an evaluation of old cases related to Cuba,” said the spokesperson, who added these entities and persons “no longer fit the criteria for their designation,” which banned them from doing any business with the United States.
The official said the measure was not related to the relaxation of some sanctions against Cuba announced by OFAC and the Treasury Department in January. But, the spokesperson said, it’s intended “to reduce the burden of compliance” with sanctions through the “removal of expired names” and “erroneous name coincidences.”
Some of these firms have been on the list since at least 1983, as in the case of Famesa International, based in Panama. Others are currently inactive, such as Travel Services, incorporated in Hialeah. According to the state database of corporations, a firm with that name was “involuntarily dissolved” in 1981. A hearing of the Senate’s Subcommittee of Crime and Terrorism identified Travel Services Inc. as the company that continued the operations of Havanatur. Both were expelled from the United States for their links with Cuban intelligence, according to the transcript of the hearing in March 1982.
One of the names removed from the list of sanctioned persons was that of Major Amado Padrón Trujillo, sentenced to death in 1989 in the case against General Arnaldo Ochoa for alleged links with drug trafficking.
More than 300 entities and persons associated with Cuba remain on the list. Dozens of websites for Cuba travel and Cuban cigar sales also remain blocked.