U.S. to announce further easing of Cuba restrictions on March 17 – sources
WASHINGTON | BY PATRICIA ZENGERLE AND MATT SPETALNICK
President Barack Obama’s administration will announce further measures
to ease travel and trade restrictions on Cuba on March 17, ahead of his
historic visit to the Communist-ruled island this month, U.S.
congressional sources said on Tuesday.
The new rules will mark the latest effort by Obama to use his executive
powers to sidestep the U.S. Congress and chip away at the more than
half-century-old U.S. economic embargo against Cuba.
The anticipated announcement appears timed as a gesture toward Cuba just
days before Obama flies to Havana for a March 21-22 visit in another
step aimed at ending decades of animosity between the former Cold War
foes. It will be the first visit to Cuba by a sitting U.S. president
The measures are expected to include changes to make it easier for
individual Americans to visit Cuba if they qualify under 12 authorized
categories of travel such as educational or cultural visits, as well as
further loosening of trade and banking rules, said the sources, who were
briefed on the matter by administration officials.
Though details were still being finalized, the package could also
include revised regulations on how the U.S. dollar can be used in trade
with Cuba, a person familiar with the discussions said. U.S. regulations
restrict or prohibit the Cuban government from using the dollar for
“The White House wants to make a splash on the economic front before
Obama gets to Havana, and this is one way to do it,” according to the
source, who was consulted by Obama aides ahead of the visit. “It will
come a couple of days before he leaves.”
Obama plans to hold talks with Cuban President Raul Castro in Havana but
also intends to meet dissidents to show that Washington remains
committed to promoting human rights on the island, a source of tension
with the Cuban government.
RESISTANCE FROM SOME LAWMAKERS
The White House has invited members of Congress to accompany the
president, and congressional aides told Reuters about 20, mostly Obama’s
fellow Democrats, were expected to go.
Obama’s moves to normalize relations with Cuba have encountered stiff
resistance from some lawmakers, mostly Republicans but also some
Democrats, since the policy shift was first announced on Dec. 17, 2014.
They feel the White House is not getting enough back from Castro’s
government in exchange for the eased regulations. The administration
believes that moves to loosen the embargo would help meet its goal of
benefiting the Cuban people.
But even some Democratic aides said they were taken aback by news there
would be further moves by the White House without concessions from
Havana. “Shouldn’t we get something from the Cubans in return?” one asked.
The mainstay of the new regulatory package is expected to be further
easing of limits on travel by Americans to Cuba at a time when U.S.
airlines are rushing to apply for routes to the island following the
recent signing of a bilateral agreement for regular scheduled flights.
The rules changes are likely to allow more people to go on self-directed
“people to people” and cultural trips without having to rely on group
tours or be sponsored by an organization, two people familiar with the
But a ban on general tourism to Cuba will remain in force. It is part of
the broader U.S. embargo and can only be lifted by Congress. Obama has
called for an end to the embargo but Republicans say that will not
happen during his presidency, which ends in January 2017.
“We continue to look at additional regulatory changes that could be made
as part of the administration’s efforts to further normalize relations
with Cuba,” an Obama administration official said. But the official
declined to provide specifics.
(Additional reporting by Dan Trotta in New York; Editing by Chizu
Nomiyama and James Dalgleish)
Source: Exclusive: U.S. to announce further easing of Cuba restrictions
on March 17 – sources | Reuters –