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U.S. eases travel and remittances restrictions on Cuba

01-18-2011 14:39 BJT

The U.S. government on Friday eased restrictions on travel, remittances and charter flights to Cuba, to "continue efforts to reach out to the Cuban people."

President Barack Obama has directed the Secretaries of State, Treasury and Homeland Security to make changes to regulations and policies governing purposeful travel, non-family remittances and U. S. airports supporting licensed charter flights to and from Cuba.

"These measures will increase people-to-people contact, support civil society in Cuba, enhance the free flow of information to, from and among the Cuban people, and help promote their independence from Cuban authorities," the White House said in a statement.

Washington imposed a trade embargo on Cuba in the early 1960s after the two countries severed diplomatic ties. The Cuban people have since suffered the impacts of the economic, commercial and financial blockade, which has greatly hindered the island state's economic development. The Cuban government estimates that the embargo has caused economic losses to Cuba exceeding 750 billion U. S. dollars.

"The president believes these actions, combined with the continuation of the embargo, are important steps in reaching the widely shared goal of a Cuba that respects the basic rights of all its citizens," the White House said. "These steps build upon the president's April 2009 actions to help reunite divided Cuban families, to facilitate greater telecommunications with the Cuban people, and to increase humanitarian flows to Cuba."

Under Obama's orders, the United States will allow religious organizations to sponsor religious travel to Cuba under license, and higher educational institutions to send students to Cuba and restore licenses of educational exchanges. Staff and students will also be allowed to attend conferences, seminars and workshops in Cuba and there will be a greater scope for journalists to travel to Cuba.

Besides, the Obama administration allows any U.S. person to send remittances up to 500 dollars per quarter to non-family members in Cuba to "support private economic activity," the White House said, adding that all U.S. international airports will be able to provide charter flights to and from Cuba.

Editor:Yang Jie |Source: Xinhua

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