USA Relaxes Travel Ban on Cuba and Aspects of the Embargo

Photo montaje from a website titled: Cuba y la Masonería
Photo montaje from a website titled: Cuba y la Masonería

HAVANA TIMES — The Obama administration announced Thursday that it will open up travel for individual US citizens to Cuba and relax aspects of the embargo on the island nation including the lifting of some restrictions on trade and investment, reported dpa news.

On December 17 the two former rivals surprised the world by announcing their plans to restore diplomatic relations after more than half a century of confrontation.

The US Treasury Department announced today measures to facilitate wide-ranging travel of individual US citizens to Cuba and allow them to use credit and debit cards from US banks on the island. Some restrictions still remain.

Under the changes, the 12 existing categories allowed for travel to the island by current law will no longer require permission. Those categories include family visits, journalists, US government officials, religious and academic activities, activities supporting the Cuban people and humanitarian projects.

Americans traveling to Cuba will now be allowed to import $400 in goods from Cuba, of which no more than $100 may consist of products of tobacco and alcohol combined, “notes the Treasury Department in a statement.

The sale and donation of products to facilitate the communication of Cubans, such as mobile phones, televisions, recorders and software will now be allowed.

The new relaxation of the embargo will allow US financial institutions to open accounts in Cuban financial institutions to facilitate the processing of authorized transactions.

The new regulations take effect Friday morning.

“We firmly believe that increased travel, trade and the flow of information to Cuba and from Cuba to the US will better advance our interests and improve the lives of Cubans,” said White House spokesman Josh Earnest, through a statement.

Earnest recalled that the policy of isolation that Washington had kept on the island for over 50 years “has not worked.” We believe the best way to promote our interests is through openness rather than isolation, “the spokesman added.

These amendments will not cause the total lifting of the economic and commercial embargo on Cuba, as only Congress can approve such a measure.

After more than 18 months of secret negotiations, on December 17, 2014, US President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro announced their decision to restore diplomatic relations after more than half a century of confrontation. High level talks in that direction will take place on January 21-22 in Havana.
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See this related post:  US Gov. Answers Questions on Cuba Travel and Doing Business

 


14 thoughts on “USA Relaxes Travel Ban on Cuba and Aspects of the Embargo

  • January 19, 2015 at 12:38 pm
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    I hope this doesn’t cause you to fall out of your chair, Terry, but I agree 100% with what you wrote above.

  • January 17, 2015 at 9:15 am
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    It’s not about me, try to remember that.

  • January 17, 2015 at 9:14 am
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    On the contrary, socialists fear science. The socialists mindset springs from the ‘cavemen’ period of mankind. Modern man, along with science, understands that the nature of humans and socialist ideology are incompatible.

  • January 17, 2015 at 1:30 am
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    Since when did you switch sides and start believing in in the link between Tobacco and cancer? – those are socialist propaganda. What next CO2 and global warming are related?, guns and violence. I cant believe I am hearing this from you Moses. LOL

  • January 17, 2015 at 12:27 am
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    I agree that there is more and more impromptu grumbling allowed in public. What I am talking about is the kind of free speech that Tania Bruguera wanted to do. Or the kind that Antonio Rodiles attempts to do with his ‘Estado de Stats’ discussions. Even the public brooding that is allowed is only up to the point Fidel’s name comes up. I know of no one that publicly call him a tyrant, torturer and murderer and get away with it. Do you?

  • January 16, 2015 at 11:27 pm
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    Who needs a freedom of thought?, you are already telling everyone constantly what to think. and Who needs satellite?, they already have you hand delivering great copies of “The Lost City”! jajajajajaj

    I think you might have this whole communism and dictator thing as a psychological projection issue.

  • January 16, 2015 at 4:07 pm
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    Cuban’s can’t speak their mind in public ? You must know some Cubans, bien miedosos, b/c I’ve heard it more times than I can count, including right in front of the police.

  • January 16, 2015 at 2:54 pm
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    I agree as well. Allowing Americans to independantly travel to Cuba and stay in casa particulares is indeed a missed opportunity. Allowing Americans to engage directly with Cuban families, both economically and philosophically, to help promote democracy and a free market economy at the grass-roots level, should be moved forward as a no-brainer.

  • January 16, 2015 at 1:43 am
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    While you are working on a nice case of lip and mouth cancer, just keep in mind that Cubans in Cuba are still unable to speak their mind in public. They are still unable to connect directly to the internet with a satellite dish on their roof. Antonio Rodiles may still not be able to travel abroad because the regime is keeping his passport because he …. well, did nothing illegal. So, now that you mention it, who exactly will be enjoying the good times you hope are beginning?

  • January 15, 2015 at 8:06 pm
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    I agree with you this is a piss poor piece of legislation. The language still excludes independent travel which would include staying at Casa particulars.

    It would seem obvious that if the goal of the U.S. govt is to foster an independent economy (as a first step toward empowering a pro-democracy sector of Cuban society), then it makes no sense to force US visitors to use tour group operators which often have leftist political organizations behind them, or to stay at hotels owned by the Castro regime.

    Surely the better option is to allow US tourists to book flights through any private carrier and stay at Casa particulars, where they will meet ordinary Cubans in their homes.

    Once again, the tone-deaf US political system never fails to miss an opportunity.

  • January 15, 2015 at 5:09 pm
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    This is such awesome news!, I can’t wait to light up a nice fat Cuban cigar. Such good news for Cubans and Americans. May the good times begin! This will hopefully mean more liberalization of ties between US and Cuba. And some of the usual negative trolls who keep complaining about Castro and communism on this forum will have to find something new to complain about. Get your resume ready boys!

  • January 15, 2015 at 3:53 pm
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    This is how I come down so far on the travel part of the new regs. No doubt I
    am being unrealistic about how the language had to be written to satisfy lawyers
    in State and Treasury and to address pressure from those in Congress who are
    against all travel. Nevertheless, it needs to be said clearly and honestly that
    this is only a partial step toward the transformational goal expressed by the
    President on December 17th.

    John McAuliff
    Fund for Reconciliation and Development

    Text of new regulations: http://www.treasury.gov/resource-center/sanctions/Programs/Documents/31cfr515_new.pdf

    OFAC Frequently Asked Questions: http://www.treasury.gov/resource-center/sanctions/Programs/Documents/cuba_faqs_new.pdf

    What is good: OFAC is effectively removed from supervising what constitutes
    people to people travel and who can do it. General licenses are not applied for
    or reported on. Any organization (including a travel agent) can create a trip
    and any travel agency or tour operator can book it using a US or third country
    carrier. Some administrative costs such as preparing applications and reporting
    on trips are eliminated so trips should be less expensive.

    What is bad: On paper, bureaucratic inertia was more powerful than the intention of the President. It is much less than Cuban Americans received, still forcing
    most Americans into non-spontaneous escorted group tours. It is a half way
    step, great for organizations like mine, but still cumbersome and costly for
    affinity groups and families and presumably prohibitive of individual travelers. Substantial cost reductions that could come from staying in private bed and breakfasts, choosing restaurants personally, and using public transportation are precluded so the demographic of travelers won’t change dramatically (older, upper middle class, white)

    The problematic language:

    1) “exchanges take place under the auspices of an organization…that sponsors such exchanges to promote people-to-people contact”

    further limited by

    “An organization that sponsors and organizes trips to Cuba in which travelers engage in individually selected and/or self-directed activities would not qualify for the general license. Authorized trips are expected to be led by the organization and to have a full-time schedule of activities in which the travelers will participate.”

    Comment: A policy against trusting American citizens to organize their own trips and allowing for spontaneity.

    2) “Travel-related transactions pursuant to this authorization must be for the purpose of engaging, while in Cuba, in a full-time schedule of activities intended to enhance contact with the Cuban people, support civil society in Cuba, or promote the Cuban people’s independence from Cuban authorities;”

    Comment: This language was originally written to satisfy Senator Rubio so he released his hold on the confirmation of Assistant Secretary Jacobson and feeds into suspicion among Cuban hard liners and security services about the motives for opening travel.

    (3) “Each traveler has a full-time schedule of educational exchange activities that
    will result in meaningful interaction between the traveler and individuals in
    Cuba;”

    Comment: same as under current rules; lots of advance detailed planning required and can only be achieved by working through a Cuban government authorized receiving agency.

    (4) “An employee, paid consultant, or agent of the sponsoring organization accompanies each group traveling to Cuba to ensure that each traveler has a full-time schedule of educational exchange activities”

    Comment: unchanged OFAC policing mentality; creates additional costs for
    travelers who must pay for the monitor, and is inapplicable to family and affinity groups; implicitly bars individual travel which forces it to remain under the table

    5) “Transactions related to activities that are primarily tourist-oriented, including self directed educational activities that are intended only for personal enrichment, are not authorized pursuant to this section.”

    Comment: unchanged language which assumes that self directed educational
    activities don’t bring one into special engagement with a society and people

    6) “Sponsorship or co-sponsorship of noncommercial academic seminars, conferences, and workshops related to Cuba or global issues involving Cuba and attendance at such events by faculty, staff, and students of a participating U.S. academic institution;”

    Comment: this continues current language that narrows even academic conferences to a single institution, and does not enable other kinds of
    US groups to organize conferences for their own members with Cuban
    counterparts

    *******************

    John McAuliff has organized more than a dozen groups of licensed people to people travelers to Cuba since the Clinton Administration, and prior to that more than a score of groups to Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia on behalf of the Fund for Reconciliation and Development, a thirty year old non-governmental organization.

  • January 15, 2015 at 1:25 pm
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    I can not wait to light up a REAL Cuban cigar!

  • January 15, 2015 at 11:59 am
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    Previously, the US government did not allow US citizens to stay at Cuba resorts such as those in Varadero or Cayo Coco when they visited Cuba for “purposeful travel”. Do the new rules allow US citizens to stay at Cuban resorts now?

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