Washington/Havana, May 16 (EFE).- United States President Joe Biden on Monday eased some restrictions on Cuba, including restoring commercial flights beyond Havana and removing remittance curbs, reversing some of the harshest measures of his predecessor Donald Trump.
Biden will also restore a family reunification program and further increase consular services and visa processing, the State Department said.
“Today, the Administration announced measures to further support the Cuban people, providing them additional tools to pursue a life free from Cuban government oppression and to seek greater economic opportunities,” spokesperson Ned Price said.
Price appealed to the Cuban government to “immediately release political prisoners, to respect the Cuban people’s fundamental freedoms and to allow the Cuban people to determine their own futures.”
Specifically, the US announced Monday that it will remove the limit on family remittances of $1,000 per quarter and will authorize non-family remittances to support independent Cuban entrepreneurs.
It will also expand authorized travel, including commercial and charter flights beyond Havana, and allow some types of travel that Trump had restricted, such as that for educational or professional purposes. Individual “people to people” travel will not be reinstated.
Until now, US airlines could only fly to Havana, leaving Cuban-Americans with few options to visit relatives in other parts of the island.
In 2019, the Trump administration banned commercial flights from its territory to all Cuban cities except Havana and, in August 2020, went further by suspending private charter flights to all airports on the island, including that of the capital.
Those charter flights were used by many Cuban-Americans to travel to the island from Miami, Florida.
The State Department also announced Monday that it will increase its support for Cuban entrepreneurs with authorizations to access electronic commerce platforms, among other actions.
Cuba’s foreign ministry on Monday described the measures as a “limited step in the right direction.”
“These announcements in no way modify the blockade or the main measures of economic siege adopted by Trump, such as the lists of Cuban entities subject to additional coercive measures; nor do they eliminate travelling restrictions for US citizens,” the ministry said.
“They do not reverse either the arbitrary and fraudulent inclusion of Cuba in the State Department list of countries that allegedly sponsor terrorism, one of the main causes for the difficulties Cuba comes up against in its commercial and financial transactions in many parts of the world.”
“However, this is a limited step in the right direction, a response to the denunciations made by the Cuban people and government. It is also a response to the claims made by the US society and the Cubans residing in that country,” it added.
The policy change comes after an internal review within the Biden administration that has taken months.
During his campaign for the 2020 election, Biden promised to return to the diplomatic thaw with Cuba started by Barack Obama and reverse many of the sanctions imposed by Trump.
However, that came to a standstill after the unprecedented anti-government demonstrations on July 11 in Cuba, which led to the imposition of sanctions by the US.
After these frictions, representatives of the US and Cuba met in Washington in April to discuss migration issues, in the first high-level dialogue between the two countries since Biden’s arrival at the White House. EFE