The United States is taking steps to prevent the Cuban regime from financially exploiting its own people and using the funds to support the illegitimate government of Venezuela’s Nicolas Maduro.
The country’s government uses two particularly ugly methods to get its hands on hard currency. It steals remittances--monetary gifts from relatives and friends living outside of Cuba—from its own citizens. “Cuba is the only country in the hemisphere where the military takes a cut of remittances,” said Acting Assistant Secretary for Western Hemisphere Affairs Ambassador Michael Kozak at a recently held Special Briefing on Human Rights Concerns in Cuba.
“The [Cuban] military seizes hard currencies for its own purposes, using it to fund its interference in Venezuela and prop up its own failing business ventures. They also then take their cut and force the Cuban individuals to use what remains of their remittance funds to only buy goods at marked-up prices from regime-controlled stores.”
To stop this practice, the United States blocked the Cuban armed forces from manipulating the processing of remittances. At the same time, the United States leaves space for remittances to continue to flow through private and civilian channels.
The United States also raises international awareness of the second method the Castro government uses to obtain hard currency—through abuse of medical professionals participating in the overseas Cuban medical missions. This is “a profit-making enterprise that is the number one source of income for the Castro regime,” said Ambassador Kozak. “The regime deprives its own medical personnel of up to 90 percent of their salaries – salaries that the doctors earn, but never see.”
The United States works to protect the doctors while cutting off this revenue to the regime. “Countries that host Cuban workers should directly deposit the professionals’ salaries in their own personal bank accounts instead of filling the regime’s coffers. And some countries have demonstrated that this can be done despite regime resistance,” said Acting Assistant Secretary Kozak.
“We have focused on denying the Castro regime the resources it uses to fund its repression in Cuba and its malign interference in Venezuela. And we’ve done this through targeted sanctions on the Cuban military, security, and intelligence institutions,” he said.
“We aim to strengthen Cuba’s civil society and private sector, but not the repressive Cuban regime.”