Last updated: 08:21 PM ET, Sat September 19 2015

More US-Cuba Restrictions Relaxed, General Tourism Still Banned

Destination & Tourism | Michael Isenbek | September 19, 2015

More US-Cuba Restrictions Relaxed, General Tourism Still Banned

Photo by David Cogswell

The U.S. Department of the Treasury has just announced a further easing of Cuba restrictions related to business and travel, but as the Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported, there is still much work ahead.

Specifically, Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew said in the release that the latest rule changes “will further ease sanctions related to travel, telecommunications and internet-based services, business operations in Cuba, and remittances.”  

Lew explained in the release that this increased openness between the two countries, “has the potential to create economic opportunities for both Americans and Cubans alike. By further easing these sanctions, the United States is helping to support the Cuban people in their effort to achieve the political and economic freedom necessary to build a democratic, prosperous, and stable Cuba.”

As per the Treasury announcement, limits have been lifted on remittances from the U.S. to Cuba, as well as on the amount of money that can be hand-carried to the island nation.

U.S. citizens allowed to travel to Cuba have a host of new abilities. They can now open bank accounts, form joint endeavors with Cuban firms, and open offices, warehouses and retail outlets.

Cubans traveling to the U.S. benefit, too. They can open bank accounts; do business with Americans outside of Cuba, and Cuban companies providing air and sea travel services to their home country now have to deal with fewer restrictions.

The Treasury announcement specified the types of businesses and offices allowed to be opened in Cuba, and they include U.S. exporters of “permitted goods” such as farm products and construction materials; telecommunications providers and Internet services; news bureaus; and education and religious groups.

However, as the AFP pointed out, many of these new allowances still just apply to a limited number of "authorized" travelers and businesses, and general U.S. tourism is still banned.  The AFP noted that the Obama administration is “hamstrung” by the 1996 Helms-Burton law, which “toughened” the original 1960 Cuban embargo.

Cuban President Raul Castro spoke with President Obama by phone Friday, and, according to the leader’s office in Havana, he "emphasized the need to deepen the reach" of the relaxed rules and “reiterated his call to end the full embargo,” the AFP said.

Verifying the call took place, The White House said, via the AFP that Obama and Castro talked about ways to "advance bilateral cooperation, even as we will continue to have differences on important issues and will address those differences candidly."

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