What’s Behind US Removal of Cuban Entities from Blacklist?

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The US Treasury Department’s removal of multiple Cuban entities from a narco-terrorist blacklist, during a time of thawing US-Cuba relations, raises the question of whether the process of keeping the list up-to-date could be made more efficient. 

In a government press release, the US Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced the removal of 28 Cuba companies, 11 boats and six individuals from its list of entities linked to terrorism and drug trafficking. 

The OFAC list, also known as the Clinton List, prohibits individuals and organizations from doing business with the United States. The Cuban entities removed from the list included shipping, fishing and tourism companies and vessels, many of which were based out of Panama.

The recent removals were part of an ongoing review of older Cuban cases. “These targets no longer meet the criteria for designation,” a US Treasury Department spokesperson said in comments e-mailed to InSight Crime. Removing Cuban entities from the OFAC list was “not related to the recent changes to [the United State’s] Cuba sanctions program,” but instead aimed at increasing efficiency and decreasing the chance of false name matches with lawful entities, the same spokesperson said. 

Cuba itself is still listed by the United States as a sponsor of terrorism. Cuba’s chief negotiator with the United States, Josefina Vidal, has called the removal of this label a priority for improving US-Cuba relations. 

InSight Crime Analysis

It is hard not to see the cleaning up of the OFAC list when it comes to Cuban companies as related to the improved relations between the two countries. As the Wall Street Journal highlighted, more companies and individuals were taken off the OFAC list in 2015 than in the past five years combined.

The timing of this clean-up also raises the question of how much the list remains in need of additional updates, and whether these updates can be done more quickly and efficiently.  Notably, one Cuban tourism company that was removed from the list — Travel Service Inc. — was forcibly dissolved in 1981, information that could be found in Florida’s corporate database. Another individual who was taken off the list, Cuban Army Major Amado Padron Trujillo, was executed in 1989 for drug trafficking links, as was widely reported by the media. The OFAC’s apparent inability to retrieve this information and change its list accordingly strongly implies that the procedure for cleaning up the blacklist may be in need of an upgrade.

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