Administration unveils more Cuban policy changes

Administration unveils more Cuban policy changes

The Obama administration will further roll back sanctions on Cuba, it announced Friday, allowing businesses to have a presence on the island nation and making it easier for people to travel there.

The announcement builds on the historic change of course that President Obama laid out last December and adds to the slew of legal barriers that have already been removed as part of the resumption of diplomatic relations.

“A stronger, more open U.S.-Cuba relationship has the potential to create economic opportunities for both Americans and Cubans alike,” Treasury Secretary Jack LewJacob (Jack) Joseph LewOvernight Finance: US reaches deal with ZTE | Lawmakers look to block it | Trump blasts Macron, Trudeau ahead of G-7 | Mexico files WTO complaint Obama-era Treasury secretary: Tax law will make bipartisan deficit-reduction talks harder GOP Senate report says Obama officials gave Iran access to US financial system MORE said in a statement. “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.”

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Still, the new rules don't authorize privately financed trade or change restrictions on who can travel to the country as the U.S. reestablishes diplomatic dialogue after more than 50 years.

President Obama is using executive authority to ease barriers to trade and travel between the two countries, announcing initial eased restrictions back in January of this year.

Congress has shown resistance to lifting the longstanding Cuban embargo, and leaders from both sides of the aisle have continued to voice concern over its human rights record.

Friday’s announcement comes as Pope Francis begins his weekend visit to Cuba, which will be followed by a trip to Washington and other U.S. cities next week. Francis has called for the elimination of barriers between the U.S. and Cuba, and Reuters reported late Thursday that the Vatican hopes his trip will help bring an end to the embargo.

The Vatican said it hoped that ending the embargo would bring about more freedom in Cuba.

White House aides late Thursday acknowledged Francis's position on Cuba ahead of his visit to the U.S., where he will meet personally with Obama and address a joint session of Congress.

The Friday rule change will increase the number and types of trips that American airplanes and boats can make to and from the island just 90 miles offshore of Florida. People authorized to travel to Cuba will also be able to open and maintain bank accounts there and will be able to have their close relatives tag along for additional types of activities.

American companies in a range of sectors will also be allowed to set up physical shop in Cuba for the first time in decades. They will be able to hire Cuban nationals and interact with Cuba’s banking sector.

In particular, the new rules make it easier for American telecommunications and Internet companies to flood into Cuba, which has been a core plank of the Obama administration’s reopening. In addition to setting up businesses in Cuba, they will also be able to bring in more consumer tech devices and add training to repair, install and replace those devices.

Additionally, a $2,000 limit on remittances to Cuba will be removed entirely.

The changes will take effect on Monday, when the regulations are formally published in the Federal Register.

A draft of the changes was first obtained by Reuters