US eases restrictions on Cuba

The Biden administration has announced that it will ease restrictions on travel and remittances to Cuba imposed under Trump.

Washington will support “educational links” between the two countries, as well as support for professional research, including “support for expanding access to the Internet and money transfer processing businesses,” according to a May 16 statement from the US State Department.

To boost remittance flows, the US government will remove the current limit of $1,000 per quarter per sender, while allowing non-family remittances to “support independent Cuban entrepreneurs.”

“We will make it easier for families to visit loved ones in Cuba and for American guests to connect, attend meetings and conduct research with the Cuban people.

The easing of travel restrictions is expected to increase visa processing, including at the consulate in Havana, but most visas are still processed at the US embassy in Guyana, a South American country.

However, the US clarified that it would not remove any companies from the Cuba Restrictions List, which includes companies believed to be affiliated with the Cuban government and military. The United States prohibits its corporations and citizens from doing business with the companies on this list.

US President Joe Biden speaks at the White House on May 9th.  Photo: AFP.

US President Joe Biden speaks at the White House on May 9th. Picture: AFP.

Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez tweeted that the US move was a “small step in the right direction” but stressed that Washington “has not changed the embargo that has been in place since 1962”.

“The goals and instruments of US policy against Cuba, which have failed, have not changed,” Rodriguez said.

US Senator Bob Menendez, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and President Joe Biden’s Democrat, opposes lifting the restrictions. In his opinion, facilitating travel carries the risk of sending the wrong message to the wrong person, at the wrong time and for the wrong reason.

The United States severed diplomatic relations with Cuba on January 3, 1961 after the island nation’s revolution won. Tensions between the United States and Cuba eased under Barack Obama, when Washington restored diplomatic ties with Havana and removed the island nation from the list of state sponsors of terrorism in 2015.

Since taking office in January 2017, Donald Trump has tightened restrictions on Cuba that former President Obama had eased. In June 2019, the Trump administration tightened travel restrictions with Cuba, banning group travel for educational purposes. The United States also does not allow passenger ships, pleasure craft, private and corporate jets to visit Cuba.

Huyen Le (Corresponding AFP)