The administration of U.S. President Joe Biden is relaxing a number of diplomatic and travel restrictions involving Cuba that were imposed by his predecessor, Donald Trump.
The State Department announced Monday that it is lifting the current limit of $1,000-per quarter that Cubans can send to family members still living on the island, and will also allow non-family remittances to support independent entrepreneurs.
The administration is also reviving a program that provides a pathway for Cubans to be reunited with family members in the United States, with the goal of issuing 20,000 immigrant visas a year. The State Department says it will also increase visa processing and consular services at its diplomatic facilities in Cuba.
The Biden administration is also expanding scheduled and chartered flights to locations beyond Cuba’s capital, Havana, including group educational trips, professional meetings and research.
Former President Trump had increased sanctions against Cuba, reversing the historic actions taken by his predecessor, Barack Obama, that eased Cold War-era tensions between Washington and the communist-run island located just 144 kilometers off the coast of Florida. The U.S. has maintained an economic embargo against Cuba that was first imposed in 1962.
Biden, who served as Obama’s vice president, vowed to restore Obama’s approach towards Cuba during the 2020 presidential campaign, but imposed a set of sanctions on Cuban officials last year after unprecedented widespread street protests on the island last July.
Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez issued a statement saying the Biden administration decisions were “a small step in the right direction.”
But U.S. Senator Robert Menendez, a member of Biden’s Democratic party and chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, criticized the administration’s decision to restore certain forms of travel to Cuba in a statement. “Those who still believe that increasing travel will breed democracy in Cuba are simply in a state of denial,” Senator Menendez said.
Some information for this report came from The Associated Press, Reuters, Agence France-Presse.