On Friday, the U.S. State Department announced that Cuba had been dropped from its list of state sponsors of terrorism. Removal from the list means Cuba will no longer face certain sanctions related to foreign aid, defense sales and banking.
Cuba’s removal from the blacklist may also now give the “green light” for American businesses to pursue opportunities there.
“The fact that Cuba was on this list would normally cause a person to hesitate,” said Augusto Maxwell, chair of the Cuba practice at Akerman LLP.
Maxwell says direct banking was not possible during the embargo. “And so, in order for an American person to be paid for a legal sale to Cuba, Cuba had to route that money through a third country in order to get that money to an American.”
Maxwell added that these direct banking relationships would allow companies providing legal services to directly pay Cubans.
Maxwell has been working with Cuba since his first trip to the island in 2003. He represented the first sale of cattle between Florida and Cuba since the embargo was put into place in 1961.
The sale involved four different banks, each one causing “a lot of brain damage,” he says, “but it illustrated all these concrete challenges of how to make that happen."
Additionally, the State Department struggled to find a bank willing to open an account in a future Cuban embassy in Washington, the Sun Sentinel reported.
In March, Stonegate Bank in Pompano Beach made history. It will help Cuba pay its bills and process visas.
Miami's Cubans had mixed responses to the news about the island's removal from the list of state sponsors of terrorism.
Oscar Rodriguez, an attorney and resident of Coral Gables, came to the U.S. from Cuba in 1960. He said his family was anti-Castro, and "that's why we came to America. But by the same token, we're very happy that the people of Cuba will have an opportunity to live and enjoy some of the things that they have not been able to enjoy for 55 years."
Rodriguez guessed that "about half" of the Cuban community shared his sentiments about the news.
Ronell Borges, a car salesman, is part of the other half.
"Honestly," Borges said, "I was in Cuba 17 years. I'm done with it. I'm here now, so I really don't care. I'm an American citizen now, my family's here, so I don't care."
Removing Cuba from the list of state sponsors of terrorism clears the way toward further normalization of U.S.-Cuba relations. Full normalization still faces challenges, though. Last week, a fourth round of talks on opening full-fledged embassies stalled.