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U.S. opens the door further on travel to Cuba

Cuba tourbus reuters

For the second time since taking office, President Obama eased restrictions on travel by Americans to Cuba. The relaxed rules are scheduled to take effect by the end of this week.

The policy change announced Friday will, according to the White House, promote "people-to-people contact; support civil society in Cuba; enhance the free flow of information to, from, and among the Cuban people; and help promote their independence from Cuban authorities."

The changes allow students, academics and religious organizations to more freely request a trip to Cuba, as well as "specific licensing for a greater scope of journalistic activities." In addition, people in the U.S. are now allowed to send up to $500 in remittances to Cuba every three months, or a maximum of $2000 a year. In 2009, the Obama administration eased restrictions to allow Cuban Americans to visit relatives on the island.

Here's the White House announcement and the Cuba entry policy page at the U.S. State Department.

Obama relaxed rules that were imposed by his predecessor, George W. Bush. Bush had tightened travel rules liberalized by his predecessor, Bill Clinton, a swinging policy in consecutive U.S. governments over an issue that has confounded American interests for more than 50 years. Cuba is only 90 miles from the coast of Florida yet remains one of only a handful of Communist countries in the world.

But for how long?

A gradual string of market economy reforms have taken effect on the island. Small businesses are popping up. More tourists are arriving. A few weeks ago, a large cruise liner took port in Havana to much fanfare. More U.S. airports will be making flights available. Before, only Los Angeles, Miami and New York were allowed to originate flights destined for Cuba.

The Cuban government hailed the new travel changes as a positive step in a statement, but said they did not go far enough to ease economic pressure generated by the long U.S. trade embargo (link in Spanish).

Cuba, governed by President Raul Castro, brother to former Communist leader Fidel Castro, is mired in corruption, according to a recent Wikileak disclosure. The country also faces widespread criticism for its human rights record, despite the release last year of a group of political dissidents who were released to exile in Spain.

-- Daniel Hernandez in Mexico City

Photo: Tourists ride on a double-decker bus along Havana's shorefront 'Malecon' boulevard, November 2010. Credit: Reuters

Comments () | Archives (7)

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How about lowering the airplane fares to Cuba, and allowing families to visit more often. Just get rid of the embargo, it is really old, and so far has no good results. Let the Cuban people know what is to live in democracy, what is to be free!

It's time to get rid of all of the travel and commerce restrictions. The fastest way to move a communist dictatorship toward capitalism and more freedom is to expose it to the citizens and money of free societies. Look at what's happened in China over the past 15 years. While they still have a long way to go, their people have more money, more freedom, and the ability to improve themselves based on how hard they're willing to work.

i have oftern wondered how people are so robust to blast israel when the cuban problem has been staring people in the face for so long i would have thought that america would have wished to have dealt with this their problem long ago.
now america if you havent yet you will soon be able to smoke the best cigars in the world.
thank you.

The ban should be lifted totally right away. Why should Americans not be able to go to Cuba when the rest of the world can? This policy on Cuba is 50 years old. Isn't it time to retire it?

The more the Cubans know about the advantages of living in a democratic society the sooner Cuba will shed its socialist ways.

Someone take my family members a bottle of shampoo, baby items, clothes and shoes cause I can't make it till 2012.

how sad this newspaper had to resort to wikileaks for information that's been common knowledge for the past 52 years


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