Obama Takes First Steps to Ease Trade, Travel Restrictions on Cuba
“Today’s announcement takes us one step closer to replacing out-of-date policies that were not working and puts in place a policy that helps promote political and economic freedom for the Cuban people,” said Treasure Secretary Jacob Lew.
Thanks to the changes, effective January 16, US citizens will be allowed to travel to Cuba for a dozen reasons with only a general license, and to use US debit and credit cards on the island; US firms will be able to provide telecommunications equipment, software, and internet to Cubans; and overall regulations that restrict trade will be relaxed.
According to White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest, the new direction in practical policy toward Cuba will “facilitate the increasing relations” between both countries and also “immediately allow US citizens to offer Cubans the means to become less dependent on the state economy.”
The reform is part of President Obama’s bid to normalize relations with the communist island after half a century of separation, and comes three days after the US federal government confirmed the Castro regime had released 53 political prisoners.
On January 21, the United States and Cuba will hold a high-level meeting in Havana to discuss further changes on immigration and diplomatic relations.
Even though the measures implemented by the Obama administration effectively ease the economic sanctions imposed on Cuba in 1960, only the US Congress can lift the embargo against the island, and Republican majorities in both the Senate and House of Representatives make such an overhaul unlikely.