The US will also reinstate a family reunification program that had been suspended for years
By Circles Robinson
HAVANA TIMES – The Biden government announced on Monday that it will fully restore permission for commercial flights to Cuban airports besides Havana. Likewise, it will suspend the limit of US $1,000 per quarter on remittances as well as speed up consular services and visa processing. The long-awaited move reverses harsher policies of Donald Trump.
“We will make it easier for families to visit their relatives in Cuba and for authorized US travelers to engage with the Cuban people, attend meetings and conduct research,” spokesperson Ned Price said in a statement.
Biden will also restore the Cuban Family Reunification Program that had been suspended for years, the State Department reported in their statement.
However, according to government officials, the US will not eliminate the list of companies that the State Department has identified for their ties to the Cuban Government and Army, with which US companies and citizens are prohibited from doing business with.
“We are going to ensure that remittances flow more freely to the Cuban people, without enriching those who commit human rights abuses,” said an official. In addition, the use of civilian “electronic payment processors” for remittances was confirmed to prevent funds from going directly to the Island regime.
The Cuban government and military will still benefit from the remittances since they have a monopoly on most legal retail and wholesale commerce.
The Biden Administration will expand authorized commercial flights to the Island, allowing, according to Reuters, that flights to and from the country use airports other than Havana.
Individual US citizens will remain unauthorized to visit Cuba
Regarding travel by US citizens, the opening is for organized educational group visits and professional meetings and research. The officials clarified that “individual travel will not be restored.”
Meanwhile, on May 3, the US Embassy in Havana resumed processing visas for immigrants, announced at the beginning of April. Until now, the only visas being processed are under the IR-5 category, which recognizes parents who are being claimed by US citizens.
Since consular services were suspended in 2017, because of the health incidents that occurred to US diplomats known as the “Havana syndrome”, visa processing has only been possible first at the US Embassy in Bogotá, Colombia and then in Georgetown, Guyana, where hundreds of Cubans have to wait for weeks and sometimes several months, with great additional costs.
Given the exodus of Cubans to the United States in recent months, the Charge d’Affaires of the United States in Havana, Timothy Zúñiga-Brown, had told Cubanet in April that the figures of the nationals who are leaving are way above the 20,000 visas included in the previous migration agreement between the two countries. He said “it is important that there be a legal, safe and formal way for people to go to the United States.”
The Trump Administration in 2019 imposed restrictions on travel and remittances to Cuba. At that time, they were limited to “1,000 dollars per person per quarter” and commercial connections from US territory to all cities on the island were prohibited, with the limited exception of Havana.
As a reflection of today’s announcement one of the many remittance companies, Sendvalu, that had previously sent money to Cubans bank accounts notified Havana Times that they were now able to make transfers to the bank MLC cards used exclusively to shop in the government’s dollar stores.
*With information from 14ymedio and EFE news agency.