US eases Cuba policy to allow more travel and remittances

The Biden administration is restarting a stalled visa programme for Cubans and can enable extra flights and visits to the island, softening former president Donald Trump’s tougher line towards the communist authorities.

President Joe Biden’s determination got here after a greater than year-long assessment of coverage in the direction of the nation, the place the financial system has been squeezed by the coronavirus pandemic and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, spurring a soar in Cuban migration to the US.

Biden’s administration mentioned it would goal to problem 20,000 visas beneath a household reunification programme for Cubans to affix their kinfolk within the US. It may even allow extra business flights to locations past Havana for group academic journeys and carry a $1,000 restrict on quarterly remittances.

“These measures will aim to support greater freedom and expand economic opportunities for the Cuban people,” a senior Biden administration official mentioned on Monday.

The conflict in Ukraine has damage the Cuban financial system, with gas shortage inflicting blackouts and restricted public transport obtainable. That disruption got here after a pandemic stoop in greenback income from tourism led to continual meals and drugs shortages.

The financial disaster has pushed extra Cubans to attempt to migrate to the US. Since October, virtually 80,000 Cubans have crossed the US-Mexico border, greater than double the quantity in 2021, in line with statistics from US Customs and Border Protection. Arrivals from Cuba surged in March, when border patrol brokers encountered greater than double the quantity in all of 2020.

The new measures are partly a reversal of Trump’s restrictions on the island, which has been topic to a US commerce embargo because the Sixties. Former president Barack Obama eased a number of the hardest measures whereas in workplace, however Trump rolled again his predecessor’s actions, describing it as a “one-sided deal”.

US coverage in the direction of Cuba additionally has electoral ramifications, as conservative Cuban-American voters who are inclined to favour a tougher line on the island’s communist authorities characterize a big bloc within the swing state of Florida.

Republican senator Marco Rubio of Florida denounced the announcement, whereas Democrat Bob Menendez from New Jersey, who chairs the Senate overseas relations committee, mentioned he was “dismayed” by the authorisation of group journey.

“To be clear, those who still believe that increasing travel will breed democracy in Cuba are simply in a state of denial,” he mentioned in a press release. “For decades, the world has been travelling to Cuba and nothing has changed.”

The senior Biden administration official mentioned the measures, which additionally included help for Cuban entrepreneurs, can be carried out over the approaching weeks and that it was dedicated to human rights points.

In only a few weeks, the US is because of host the Summit of the Americas, some of the essential political conferences within the hemisphere. Mexico’s president Andrés Manuel López Obrador and different Latin American leaders have threatened to not attend except Cuba is invited.

The senior Biden administration official mentioned the measures weren’t linked to the summitt, and a choice on whether or not Cuba can be invited had not been made.

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