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Havana Calling

Easing the Embargo Will Open the Cuban Telecom Sector

A woman speaks on a public phone beside a notice painted on a wall referring to the "Cuban Five" (agents who were arrested by the United States in 2010 for spying in Miami). The notice reads, "Freedom for the five, they will return." Desmond Boylan / Courtesy Reuters

On January 15, the U.S. Treasury Department announced a significant easing of the 54-year-old embargo on Cuba, implementing U.S. President Barack Obama’s landmark policy shift toward the island. As part of the change, the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) amended regulations allowing some U.S. businesses to enter the Cuban market. Among the many new rules, the dramatic loosening of restrictions on telecommunications investment has the greatest potential to accelerate the growth of civil society in Cuba. The revised telecom regulations can empower reform-minded elements in the country and promote political change by lessening sector dependence on the Castro regime. At the same time, the new regulations provide U.S. companies with immediate economic opportunities, so long as they are willing to bear the administrative and bureaucratic burdens of conducting business on the island. U.S. firms’ increased involvement in the country—while not free of business

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