As much as it is exciting that us Americans have a new travel destination, I think the buzz fades when you realize it’s to a communist island.
The United States government on Friday will begin making it easier for Americans to travel to Cuba than it has been for more than half a century, opening the door to a new era of contact between neighbors that have been estranged longer than most of their citizens have been alive.
The Obama administration announced on Thursday a set of new regulations to take effect on Friday easing decades-old restrictions on travel, business and remittances, putting into reality some of the changes promised by President Obama last month when he announced plans to resume normal diplomatic relations with Havana.
Under the new regulations, Americans will now be allowed to travel to Cuba for any of a dozen specific reasons without first obtaining a special license from the government. Airlines and travel agents will be allowed to provide service to Cuba without a specific license. And travelers will be permitted to use credit cards and spend money while in the country and bring back up to $400 in souvenirs, including up to $100 in alcohol or tobacco.
The new regulations will also make it easier for American telecommunications providers and financial institutions to do business with Cuba. Americans will be allowed to send more money to Cubans, up to $2,000 every three months instead of the $500 currently permitted.
“These changes will have a direct impact in further engaging and empowering the Cuban people, promoting positive change for Cuba’s citizens,” Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew, whose department oversees sanctions policy, said in a statement.
“Cuba has real potential for economic growth,” he added, “and by increasing travel, commerce, communications, and private business development between the United States and Cuba, the United States can help the Cuban people determine their own future.”
The administration moved to ease the restrictions after obtaining confirmation that 53 incarcerated people it deemed political prisoners had been released in accordance with the agreement Mr. Obama and President Raúl Castro of Cuba struck last month. Cuba has also released an American held prisoner for years, Alan P. Gross, and a Cuban who had worked as a spy for the United States. Mr. Obama released three Cuban spies who had been held for years and were considered folk heroes in Havana.
Read more: NY Times