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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