For years, more precisely since 8 July 1963, Cuban cigars have been a banned pleasure for U.S. citizens but at least when abroad they could legally indulge. Earlier this month the department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control has announced that Americans are barred from not only purchasing Cuban goods in foreign countries, but also from consuming them in those countries.
I quote from the OFAC’s Cuban cigar update (pdf):
The question is often asked whether United States citizens or permanent resident aliens of the United States may legally purchase Cuban origin goods, including tobacco and alcohol products, in a third country for personal use outside the United States. The answer is no. The Regulations prohibit persons subject to the jurisdiction of the United States from purchasing, transporting, importing, or otherwise dealing in or engaging in any transactions with respect to any merchandise outside the United States if such merchandise (1) is of Cuban origin; or (2) is or has been located in or transported from or through Cuba; or (3) is made or derived in whole or in part of any article which is the growth, produce or manufacture of Cuba. Thus, in the case of cigars, the prohibition extends to cigars manufactured in Cuba and sold in a third country and to cigars manufactured in a third country from tobacco grown in Cuba.
The penalties for violating the prohibitions include maximum criminal fines for individuals of $250,000 and imprisonment for up to 10 years. Corporations can be fined as much as a million dollars.
What this means is that the US government claims ‘ownership’ of its citizens. It extends its jurisdiction beyond the territory of the United States and imposes its restrictions wherever you are. If that is not the state’s way of saying it owns its citizens, I do not know what is.
This is not the first time we got our knickers in a twist over this modern form of slavery. Here is what Perry de Havilland says about the matter when you get him started on the US citizenship.
American citizenship particularly (more than any other advanced nation’s citizenship) is rather like being branded like livestock. To have that brand means that, unlike almost every other state on earth, the US government will always claim a pecuniary interest in the private property that you acquire, even if you live outside the USA and make your living outside the USA and keep your assets outside the USA. Unlike other countries, which by and large lose interest in you the moment you step outside their borders, the USA actually makes itself your super-owner. The USA do not just claim a territorial monopoly on the means of force, it actually claims to own part of your labour regardless of where you are.
There you have it. You cannot hide. The US government wants to see even through the haze of your cuban. The good news is that you are welcome at Samizdata HQ as I light up a lovely Trinidad fundadore. Just remember not to inhale.
via Ben Hammersley