U.S. rolls out revised Cuba policy, easing some restrictions on remittances, travel

 U.S. rolls out revised Cuba policy, easing some restrictions on remittances, travel

Emigrants wave American and Cuban flags outside a restaurant in Versailles, in reaction to reports of Cuban protests against its deteriorating economy, in Miami, Florida, U.S. July 18, 2021. REUTERS/Marco Bello

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WASHINGTON, May 16 (Reuters)-The United States plans to take a series of steps to change its policy toward Cuba, including easing some Trump-era restrictions on family remittances and travel to on the island and rapidly increasing U.S. visa processing for Cubans. , administration officials said Monday.

The measures, which come after a lengthy review by the U.S. government, mark the most significant changes to the U.S. approach to Havana since President Joe Biden took office in January 2021.

But the announcement halted the resumption of U.S.-Cuba relations in the historic rapprochement engineered by former President Barack Obama, of which Biden served as vice president. That includes less crimped flow of remittances, smaller travel curves and faster visa service.

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Officials say that in measures announced Monday, the United States will remove the limit on family remittances, previously set at $ 1,000 per quarter, and allow donations to be sent to non-family members.

But officials clarified that the United States will not remove entities from the Cuba Restricted List, a list of the Cuban government’s State Department and military-affiliated companies where U.S. companies and citizens are banned. doing business.

“We will ensure that remittances flow more freely to Cubans, while not enriching human rights abusers,” the official said.

The United States will use civilian “electronic payment processors” for remittances to prevent funds from going directly to the Cuban government, officials said, adding that the United States is already in contact with the Cuban government “about build a civilian processor for it. “

Biden officials note that easing Cuban bans could lead to a political fallout from conservative Cuban Americans, a key voting bloc in south Florida that largely supports former President Donald Trump’s strict policies. Trump in Cuba.

Trump has cut visa processing, restricted remittances, reduced trips to the island and increased barriers for U.S. citizens seeking to travel to Cuba for anything other than a family visit.

Officials provided some details on how the new policy will be implemented.

The Cuban embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to a request for comment.


Among the changes is a plan to restore the Cuban Family Reunification Parole Program, which provides a legal way for Cuban families to be reunited in the United States, and increase capacity for services. consular.

Washington aims to issue 20,000 immigrant visas a year, the official said, in line with a migration agreement.

The U.S. embassy in Havana began issuing a trickle of immigrant visas to Cubans this month, fulfilling an early promise to restart visa processing on the island after four years of rest.

The State Department under Trump heavily enumerated embassy staff in 2017 after a series of “anomalous health incidents” known as “Havana syndrome.”

Cubans seeking to immigrate to the United States are ordered to apply for personal visas at U.S. embassies first in Colombia, and then in Guyana, expensive trips that are inaccessible to most.

The Biden administration will also expand authorized travel to Cuba, allowing trips to and from the country using airports outside Havana, officials said.

Washington will also bring back some categories of group education travel, as well as some travel related to professional meetings and research.

Individual “people-to-people” travel, however, will no longer be reversed, officials said. The category was removed by Trump officials who say it was abused by Americans vacationing on the beach.

The United States will also increase support for independent Cuban entrepreneurs, aimed at facilitating internet access and expanding access to microfinance and training, among other measures.

Biden has vowed in the 2020 elections to reunite with Cuba. He instead imposed new sanctions on Cuban officials in response to Havana’s crackdown on protesters after widespread marches on the island in July.

Hundreds were arrested during and after the demonstrations, widely considered the largest protest since Fidel Castro’s 1959 revolution. Washington has condemned the Cuban authorities for the harsh punishments given by some.

The Cuban government has blamed the protests on U.S. intervention.

Officials say a decision has not yet been made on whether to invite Cuba to the U.S.-hosted Summit in America, despite threats from Mexico and others that they will not attend unless all American countries are invited. read more

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Reporting by Daphne Psaledakis, Matt Spetalnick and Humeyra Pamuk; Edited by Mary Milliken and Rosalba O’Brien

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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