Why Cubans Won't Be Drinking Frappuccinos Anytime Soon

If the coffee behemoth wanted to move in on the coffee market in Cuba, they’d be facing more than just a population that knows its <i>cafecitos</i> very, very well.

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Sep 21 2015, 9:45pm

Nothing says, "Hola, unfettered free-market capitalism" quite like a Red Velvet Cake Crème Frappuccino shared among trusted comrades. Sadly, though, it seems that Havana's historic plazas and boulevards will be woefully deficient of the iconic Franken-beverage that is the Frappuccino. The reason?

Because Cuba says so. Duh.

Just last Friday, the Obama administration took yet another step towards the reversal of America's longstanding trade and travel embargo on the Communist-ruled island nation of Cuba. The gates are now open for eager entrepreneurs hoping to finally rake in that sweet moneda nacional, Scrooge-McDuck style.

READ: This Is Why Australians Hate Starbucks

That is, of course, not to say that once corporations do traverse said gap they will find the situation entirely to their liking. There is still an endless playa's worth of Cuban legal and regulatory roadblocks to deal with if you want to do business there.

Although most US citizens are still prohibited from traveling to Cuba, you best believe your platanos maduros that plenty of corporations are trying to get all up in that. And what they will find are some super-strange limitations on doing business in Cuba, according to Reuters.

For instance, take Starbucks. If the coffee behemoth wanted to move in on the coffee market in Cuba, they'd be facing more than just a population that knows its cafecitos very, very well. As regulations stand now, Starbucks would be relegated entirely to selling packaged coffee, and forced to forsake the global chain's iconic prepared drinks, according to the president of the US-Cuba Trade and Economic Council Inc., John Kavulich. Perhaps as a result, Starbucks told Reuters that, at least for now, "it had no plans to enter Cuba."

Just to give you an example of the kinds of not-very-egalitarian hoops the island's interlopers must jump through, Internet and telecommunication companies are totally welcome now to put down roots: Just don't even try to fuck with the government-owned Empresa de Telecomunicaciones de Cuba S.A.'s ironclad monopoly. Regulations also prohibit US companies from extending credit to Cuba. Furthermore, Cubans can't use dollars in international transactions.

And if you thought strict monetary policies and monopolies were where the heavy-handed ordinances ended, guess again. Ultimately, it's completely up to the Cuban government to decide whether or not a foreign company will become licensed to offer its services or wares. Sounds like a far cry from good ol' Murica, where if we wanted to buy the discarded toenail clippings of Gene Roddenberry, we damn well could.

"You don't just go down to Cuba and hang up your shingles. That's not how it operates," explained Kirby Jones, the head of Alamar Associates, a veteran advisor to companies on all things business in Cuba since the 1970s.

"Obama took a sledgehammer to US regulations today, but he's 50 percent of the equation," added Kavulich of the US-Cuba Trade and Economic Council. "No one should be fuelling up their corporate jet and filing a flight plan for Havana today."

READ: Starbucks Is Finally Putting Some Pumpkin in Its Pumpkin Spice Lattes

Apparently, all that regulation has scared Starbucks from attempting to whip cream its way into the hearts and minds of the Caribbean nation. At least for now, that is.

Forget Cuba libre. We are most definitely talking about a Frappuccino-libre situation here.

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