Politics

Obama Administration Loosens Restrictions On Cuba, Travel And Investment Now Allowed

| by Edward Arnold

President Barack Obama's administration has followed through on its deal with Cuba, loosening restrictions on American trade and investments as well as easing traveling limitations for Americans to visit the island.

By normalizing relations in December of 2014, new rules will open Cuba to greater American travel and allow some U.S. banking activity starting this month. Travelers will be able to use credit cards, and U.S. airlines will fly to Cuba without special restrictions.

The Treasury and Commerce Department released the new regulations on Jan. 15, and they will go into effect on Jan. 16. The reforms come three days after it was announced that Cuba completed its side of the deal to release 53 political prisoners.

To travel to Cuba, Americans can qualify through 12 different conditions, including family visits, journalism and humanitarian projects. People who do not qualify can still apply for a special license to travel to Cuba.

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Travelers will be allowed to import up to $400 worth of goods acquired in Cuba, including up to $100 of alcohol or tobacco products.

The Obama administration has encouraged American firms to build infrastructure in Cuba as well as sell computers and cars to the nation.

While these new rules will loosen the hold the 54-year embargo has had on Cuba, only Congress can fully repeal the embargo.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest said the new rules will “immediately enable the American people to provide more resources to empower the Cuban population to become less dependent upon the state-driven economy.”

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U.S. companies will be able to export goods for the Cuban private sector to develop its own entrepreneurial market.

“We firmly believe that allowing increased travel, commerce and the flow of information to and from Cuba will allow the United States to better advance our interests and improve the lives of ordinary Cubans,” Earnest said. "The policy of the past has not worked for over 50 years, and we believe that the best way to support our interests and our values is through openness rather than isolation.”

American officials plan on meeting with members of the Cuban government in the coming weeks to discuss migration policy and a possible U.S. embassy in Havana.

Sources: The Hill, Washington Post (2) / Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons