Last week, my friend and colleague Mark Nestmann wrote about the changing U.S. policies with respect to persons subject to U.S. jurisdiction traveling to Cuba.
As a former U.S. citizen, I'm no longer subject to U.S. regulations. That means I'm free to visit or invest in Cuba at will.
After speaking at the Global Escape Hatch conference last week, I boarded a flight from Panama to Cuba. I saw some notable differences this time than my most recent visit before this one (read about it here). This time, it was apparent the newest round of economic sanctions has driven Americans away from Cuba.
One of the few Americans I encountered was an elderly gentleman visiting Cuba for the first time. We talked about the "license" U.S. visitors must obtain from the U.S. Treasury. He smiled and said with pride that he was a "cheater." That's the term that personnel who work at the U.S. Interest Section in the Swiss embassy Havana use to refer American tourists who travel to Cuba in violation of the travel restrictions. (The United States hasn't had a full-fledged embassy in Cuba since 1961.)
"Cheaters" usually try to keep a low profile, some being more nervous, while others are open and flagrant. "The regulations infringe on my right to travel" this "cheater" told me while his wife nodded and continued by saying: "I shall not obey them."
Another change since my last visit to Cuba was a vast increase in the number of Chinese visitors. I noticed numerous Chinese delegations in Havana, as well as many Chinese guests in the hotel where I normally stay in Havana.
I began a conversation with a Chinese businessman who was part of a delegation exploring investment opportunities as well as sales of Chinese products. We discussed various opportunities in the region as well as in Cuba. He laughed and said "we don't need to worry about competition from the Americans here."
One obvious opportunity for China is the automotive industry. Most vehicles now operating in Cuba are 1950s-era American cars alongside Soviet made Ladas and Volgas. However, there are also a few newer Chinese-made vehicles on the streets as well. These vehicles could have just as easily—and much less expensively—been imported from the United States. However, the 50-year-old U.S. trade embargo makes that impossible.
I also noticed a much larger number of Russian visitors almost everywhere I went in Havana. This increase is no doubt due to a remarkable revitalization of ties between Cuba and Russia under Russian President Putin. One sign of these renewed links is that it's now much easier to fly from Russia to Cuba via Aeroflot, Russia's flag carrier. You can fly non-stop from Moscow to Havana in a little under 13 hours.
For ordinary Cubans, life continues in a bureaucratic vice, although economic reforms continue. One of the most successful reforms has been to issue licenses for Cuban entrepreneurs who wish to start a small business. These licenses make it possible for a Cuban business to begin with much less red tape than before.
However, one of the most frustrating aspects of life in Cuba remains in place: the exit visa. An artifact from the Soviet era, the exit visa process means that Cuban citizens can leave their own country only with formal permission from the government. Most Cubans despise this requirement. It's a major source of irritation for any Cuban citizen who wishes to travel outside Cuba.
As a citizen of the Commonwealth of Dominica, I enjoy visa free entry into the Republic of Cuba, and can depart without obtaining permission from the government. I don't even need to purchase a tourist card when I enter the country. I can also travel to more than 100 other countries without a visa or with minimal visa formalities.
If you'd like your own passport from the Commonwealth of Dominica, we can help. The Nestmann Group, Ltd. is the only U.S.-based authorized agent for this program.
(We can also assist with procurement of a passport from the Federation of St. Kitts & Nevis.)
Contact us for more information.
Copyright (c) 2012 by The Nestmann Group, Ltd.
P.S. Sign up now for my upcoming conference Oct. 26-27, “Escape From America—The Second Passport, Expatriation, and International Tax Planning Seminar.” We’ll be covering the economic citizenship programs of both St. Kitts & Dominica, and featured speakers include the Honorable Roosevelt Skerrit, the Prime Minister of Dominica. Learn more about this conference here. Click here for the conference agenda and here for the list of speakers.