Foreign Policy Blogs

TeleCuba Communications (and others) will have to wait

Reuters/Enrique De La Osa

As noted last week, telecommunications companies from the United States were in limbo on the question of doing business in Cuba: the Obama administration had given them the green light, but Cuba remained silent. Only when permission was given by both sides would they be able to forge ahead with ambitious plans for laying cables from Florida to the island.

But the international operations director from the state telecom company (ETECSA) announced Saturday in an official government newscast that American companies would only be granted access to the island after outstanding trade and legal grievances are resolved. Such a prerequisite could be a long way off yet. The two particulars she named as needing to be addressed were (1) some $160 million in frozen funds that the U.S. government seized from ETECSA in 2000, and (2) trade restrictions imposed by the 1992 Cuban Democracy Act, which forces Cuba to pay U.S. companies through third countries, incurring additional transaction fees.

Unfortunately, with respect to the first issue, the two sides are unlikely to reach agreement. The funds were seized as payment to Cuban American families whose relatives were shot down over Cuba in 1996. Cuba says the funds were stolen, but U.S. courts ruled in favor of the families’ wrongful death case against the Castro government.

Still, the 110 mile cable from Key West, as proposed by TeleCuba Communications, is a much easier and sensible option for Cuba than the 966 mile-long cable from Venezuela that is currently the only other prospect on the table. Perhaps that will move Cuba to compromise sooner than might otherwise be the case.



Melissa Lockhart Fortner

Melissa Lockhart Fortner is Senior External Affairs Officer at the Pacific Council on International Policy in Los Angeles, having served previously as Senior Programs Officer for the Council. From 2007-2009, she held a research position at the University of Southern California (USC) School of International Relations, where she closely followed economic and political developments in Mexico and in Cuba, and analyzed broader Latin American trends. Her research considered the rise and relative successes of Latin American multinationals (multilatinas); economic, social and political changes in Central America since the civil wars in the region; and Wal-Mart’s role in Latin America, among other topics. Melissa is a graduate of Pomona College, and currently resides in Pasadena, California, with her husband, Jeff Fortner.

Follow her on Twitter @LockhartFortner.

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