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 in opposition to the communist authorities.

President Joe Biden’s choice got here after a greater than year-long evaluation 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 bounce in Cuban migration to the US.

Biden’s administration mentioned it’s going to purpose to problem 20,000 visas beneath a household reunification programme for Cubans to affix their kin within the US. It should additionally allow extra industrial flights to locations past Havana for group academic journeys and raise 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 harm the Cuban financial system, with gasoline shortage inflicting blackouts and restricted public transport accessible. That disruption got here after a pandemic hunch in greenback income from tourism led to power meals and medication 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 keeping with statistics from US Customs and Border Safety. Arrivals from Cuba surged in March, when border patrol brokers encountered greater than double the quantity in all of 2020.

The brand new measures are partly a reversal of Trump’s restrictions on the island, which has been topic to a US commerce embargo for the reason that Nineteen Sixties. Former president Barack Obama eased among 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 signify a major 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 international 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 an announcement. “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, probably the most vital political conferences within the hemisphere. Mexico’s president Andrés Manuel López Obrador and different Latin American leaders have threatened to not attend until Cuba is invited.

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

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