Did Secretaries Pritzker, Vilsack and Amb. Thorne Violate U.S. Sanctions Law?

Friday, November 13, 2015
The U.S.-Cuba Economic Trade and Economic Council, which supports business engagement with Cuba -- but apparently respects the rule of law (unlike some of its peers) -- has raised a very important issue in its latest "Economic Eye on Cuba" report.

According to the report:

On 20 October 2015, the United States Department of Commerce reported that Republic of Cuba-related activities by it (and by extension the United States Government) and The Honorable Penny Pritzker, United States Secretary of Commerce, were restricted and/or prohibited by the Trade Sanctions Reform and Export Enhancement Act (TSREEA) of 2000, title IX, Public Law 106-387 [22 U.S.C. 7207(a)(1)] (TSRA).

Restricted and/or prohibited not by choice (policy), but by law:

"Sect. 7207. Prohibition on United States assistance and financing

(a) Prohibition on United States assistance

(1) In general Notwithstanding any other provision of law, no United States Government assistance, including United States foreign assistance, United States export assistance, and any United States credit or guarantees shall be available for exports to Cuba or for commercial exports to Iran, Libya, North Korea, or Sudan.

(2) Rule of construction

Nothing in paragraph (1) shall be construed to alter, modify, or otherwise affect the provisions of section 6039 of this title or any other provision of law relating to Cuba in effect on the day before October 28, 2000.

(3) Waiver

The President may waive the application of paragraph (1) with respect to Iran, Libya, North Korea, and Sudan to the degree the President determines that it is in the national security interest of the United States to do so, or for humanitarian reasons."

(CHC Editor: Note that Congressional intent was so clear and determinative that Cuba was specifically excluded from the President's waiver authority.)

Given Secretary Pritzker’s statements before, during and after her October 2015 visit to the Republic of Cuba, and citing the subsequently-released October 2015 rationale from the United States Department of Commerce, there is reasonableness to conclude that her visit should not have been permitted.

The visit by representatives from BIS and Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) of the United States Department of the Treasury who accompanied Secretary Pritzker should not have been permitted.

The use of a United States government aircraft should not have been permitted.

The expenditures for the visit should not have been permitted.

The webinars hosted by OFAC/BIS should not be permitted.

Participation by representatives of the OFAC and BIS in conferences throughout the United States should not be permitted.

The legality of the October/November 2015 visits to the Republic of Cuba by the Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security, Commissioner of United States Customs and Border Protection, Senior Advisor to the United States Secretary of State, and Assistant Secretary for the Private Sector of the United States Department of Homeland Security need also be questioned as media releases and articles relating to the visits referenced commerce and trade; partial text of a media release from the United States Department of State: "...attend the inauguration of the U.S.-Cuba Business Council [an entity created by the United States Chamber of Commerce] and the opening ceremony of the 33rd annual Havana International Fair (FIHAV); Havana’s largest annual multi-sector trade fair... to meet with government officials and business leaders.”

(CHC Editor: We'd add this week's trip by U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack to the mix.)

Read the whole report here.