Dear Mr. President,
Your administration has taken several important steps to support the Cuban people by opening travel for Cuban-American families, expanding remittances, and enabling purposeful travel for more Americans. Those policies have fostered direct contacts between the United States and the Cuban people, provided a lifeline for average Cubans, and empowered Cuban civil society. As a result, Cuban society and U.S. society are sharing more information and are more connected today than in the past fifty years.
Now more than ever the United States can help the Cuban people determine their own destiny by building on the U.S. policy reforms that have already been started. Such efforts would seek to provide openings and opportunities to support the Cuban people in their day-to-day economic activities, and in their desire to connect openly with each other and the outside world and to support the broad spectrum of civil society, independent, non-state organizations created to further individual economic and social needs irrespective of political orientation. Doing so not only promises to deepen the contacts between the U.S. and Cuban society, it will also help Cubans increase their self-reliance and independence. But timing matters and this window of opportunity may not remain open indefinitely. At the same time, the U.S. is finding itself increasingly isolated internationally in its Cuba policy. In the current political climate little can be done legislatively, but the Obama Administration has an unprecedented opportunity to usher in significant progress using its executive authority at a time when public opinion on Cuba policy has shifted toward greater engagement with the Cuban people while continuing to pressure the Cuban government on human rights.
We acknowledge and appreciate the steps you have taken to improve U.S. - Cuban relations. We further propose the following recommendations that you, Mr. President, can take through executive authority to deepen the changes already underway by giving greater freedom to private organizations and individuals to directly and indirectly serve as catalysts for meaningful change in Cuba.
1. Expand and safeguard travel to Cuba for all Americans
(a) Expand general licensed travel to include exchanges by professional organizations, including those specializing in law, real estate and land titling, financial services and credit, hospitality, and any area defined as supporting independent economic activity.
(b) Expand travel by general license for NGOs and academic institutions and allow them to open Cuban bank accounts with funds to support their educational programs in Cuba.
(c) Authorize U.S. travelers to Cuba to have access to U.S.-issued pre-paid cards and other financial services-including travelers' insurance-to expand possibilities for commerce with independent entrepreneurs and safeguard people-to-people travel.
2. Increase support for Cuban civil society
(a) Allow unlimited remittances to non-family members for the purpose of supporting independent activity in Cuba and expand the types of goods that travelers may legally take to the Island to support micro-entrepreneurs.
(b) Establish new licenses for the provision of professional services to independent Cuban entrepreneurs.
(c) Authorize the import and export of certain goods and services between the U.S. private sector and independent Cuban entrepreneurs.
(d) Allow U.S. NGOs and other organizations to lend directly to small farmers, cooperatives, self-employed individuals, and micro-enterprises in Cuba.
(e) Permit family remittances to be used as credits or equities in Cuban micro-enterprises and small farms.
(f) Allow U.S. academic institutions to issue scholarships for exceptional Cuban students.
(g) Allow for Cuban entrepreneurs to participate in internships in U.S. corporations and NGOs.
(h) Promote agricultural exchange studies between U.S. based NGOs and private cooperative farms in Cuba.
(i) Authorize the sale of telecommunications hardware in Cuba, including cell towers, satellite dishes, and handsets.
(j) Authorize general travel licenses for the research, marketing and sale of telecommunications equipment.
(k) Authorize telecommunications hardware transactions to be conducted through general license in the same manner as existing transactions for agricultural products.
3. Prioritize principled engagement in areas of mutual interest
(a) The Obama Administration should engage in serious discussions with Cuban counterparts on mutual security and humanitarian concerns, such as national security, migration, drug interdiction, and the environment, among others. The United States should leverage these talks to press Cuban officials on matters such as the release of Alan Gross and on-going human rights concerns.
4. The Obama Administration should take steps to assure financial institutions that they are authorized to process all financial transactions necessary and incident to all licensed activities.