17 May 2022, 10:17

US announces easing visa, family remittance restrictions for Cuba

WASHINGTON, May 17, 2022 (BSS/AFP) - The United States said Monday it is

easing restrictions imposed during former president Donald Trump's
administration on travel to Cuba and on the sending of family remittances
between the United States and the communist island.

"The Cuban people are confronting an unprecedented humanitarian crisis and
our policy will continue to focus on empowering the Cuban people to help them
create a future free from repression and economic suffering," the State
Department said.

The loosening of the embargo on Cuba will see increased visa processing,
including at the Havana consulate, but with most visas still handled at the
US embassy in Guyana.

The statement said it will "facilitate educational connections" between the
two countries, as well as support for professional research including
"support for expanded internet access and remittance process companies."

To boost the flow of remittances, the US government will lift the current
limit of $1,000 per quarter for each sender, and also allow non-family
remittances to "support independent Cuban entrepreneurs."

It said it would increase the number of flights permitted between the US and
the Caribbean island, and serving cities other than the capital Havana. It
will also allow certain group visits, which are currently forbidden.

Cuba's foreign minister, Bruno Rodriguez, tweeted that the move was "a small
step in the right direction," but emphasized that it does "not modify the
embargo" in place since 1962.

"Neither the objectives nor the main instruments of the United States' policy
against Cuba, which is a failure, are changing," he wrote.

US Senator Bob Menendez, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee
and a member of President Joe Biden's Democratic Party, denounced the lifting
of some restrictions, saying that the Cuban regime "continues its ruthless
persecution of countless Cubans from all walks of life" following
unprecedented street protests last year.

The easing of travel "risks sending the wrong message to the wrong people, at
the wrong time and for all the wrong reasons," he said in a statement. "Those
who still believe that increasing travel will breed democracy in Cuba are
simply in a state of denial. For decades, the world has been traveling to
Cuba and nothing has changed."

Republican Senator Marco Rubio, who is of Cuban heritage, also slammed the
announcement, saying on Twitter that the Cuban regime "threatened Biden with
mass migration and have sympathizers inside the administration."

He said "the result is today we see the first steps back to the failed Obama
policy on Cuba," referring to former president Barack Obama's thaw in
relations with Havana, including a visit there in 2016.

Biden is seeking to tread a fine line between helping ordinary Cubans and
encouraging democratic developments while not allowing the Communist regime
to benefit from any easing of restrictions.

The thaw comes in the wake of a series of mysterious illnesses suffered by US
personnel and family members in Cuba in what has come to be known as "Havana

US officials say they have yet to determine exactly what happened in the
incidents but a senior official told reporters that there is an "appropriate
security posture."

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