WASHINGTON – The Treasury Department announced Thursday a series of changes to the U.S. embargo against Cuba aimed at easing trade and travel, as promised by President Barack Obama in his Dec. 17 announcement of the restoration of bilateral diplomatic ties.
The Treasury and Commerce departments outlined adjustments to the Cuban Assets Control Regulations and Export Administration Regulations, set to take effect Friday.
The new rules liberalize requirements for prospective travelers in 12 categories already established by Washington, including family visits, journalism, official government business, humanitarian efforts and professional, educational, religious, cultural or sports exchanges.
“Authorized travelers will be allowed to engage in transactions ordinarily incident to travel within Cuba, including payment of living expenses and the acquisition in Cuba of goods for personal consumption there,” the Treasury Department said.
Other changes will allow the use of U.S. credit cards in Cuba, increase the amount of money that can be sent to the island and the import of much-sought-after Cuban cigars.
U.S. citizens traveling to Cuba will be allowed to import goods worth up to $400 for personal consumption including “no more than $100 of alcohol or tobacco products.”
The limit on money remittances is increased from $500 to $2,000 per quarter and there will be no limits in the case of some humanitarian projects.
Authorized travelers to Cuba will be allowed to carry up to $10,000 in family remittances or donations to religious organizations or educational projects.
The new regulations will also allow export of telecommunications equipment to Cuba in order to improve connectivity with the United States and the rest of the world as well as inside the country.
Starting Friday, U.S. residents can send mobile phones, television sets, computers and other devices to Cuba.
“These changes will immediately enable the American people to provide more resources to empower the Cuban population to become less dependent upon the state-driven economy, and help facilitate our growing relationship with the Cuban people,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest said in a statement.
These changes follow the historical announcement by Obama last month to normalize diplomatic relations with Cuba after more than half-a-century of the unilateral U.S. embargo and hostility toward the island’s Communist regime.
The agreement to normalize relations came after 18 months of secret negotiations mediated by Pope Francis and the Canadian government.