US officials have announced plans to resume Obama’s Cuba policy.
Under new measures approved by the Biden administration, restrictions on family remittances and travel to the island will be relaxed.
The processing of US visas for Cubans will also be streamlined.
State Department spokesman Ned Price said the move would allow Cuban citizens to lead lives free from “government oppression.”
The relaxation of the sanctions will mean the elimination of a limit for family remittances, funds sent by immigrants in the US to relatives in Cuba. Previously, immigrants were prevented from sending more than $1,000 every three months. This figure does not affect the majority of people who send remittances to their relatives in Cuba.
The new plans will also allow donations to people who are not family members.
But US officials stressed that they will seek to ensure that such payments do not reach “those who perpetrate human rights abuses” through the use of civilian “electronic payment processors.” Which is impossible because the dictatorship controls all the flow of money that enters the island.
They also said no bodies will be removed from Cuba’s Restricted List, a State Department registry of companies linked to the communist government in Havana with which US citizens are prohibited from doing business.
A Biden administration official told CBS News that more charter and commercial flights will be available to Havana, U.S. consular services on the island will be expanded, and family reunification programs will be relaunched.
After negotiations by former President Barack Obama, Trump restored morale to the Cuban exile community by announcing a series of sanctions against the Cuban dictatorship in 2017.
His administration slashed visa processing for communists seeking to infiltrate exile, restricted remittances to prevent money laundering by dictatorship figureheads, and increased obstacles for U.S. citizens seeking to do shady business with the dictatorship.
At the time, Trump cited human rights concerns as the reason for reversing deals made by the Obama administration and condemned his predecessor for making a deal with the country’s “brutal” government.
The Cuban foreign minister welcomed the announcement, saying the easing of restrictions marked “a small step in the right direction.”
But Bruno Rodríguez added that the policy “does not modify the embargo” in force since 1962 and argued that “neither the objectives nor the main instruments of the United States’ policy against Cuba, which is a failure, are changing.” Responding to the old communist rhetoric.
Meanwhile, a senior member of Biden’s Democratic Party condemned the move.
Senator Bob Menendez, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, denounced the lifting of the restrictions, saying the Cuban regime has continued “its ruthless persecution of countless Cubans from all walks of life.”
In a statement issued late Monday, Menendez said easing travel restrictions “risks sending the wrong message to the wrong people, at the wrong time, and for all the wrong reasons.”
“Those who still believe that increased travel will bring about democracy in Cuba are simply in a state of denial. For decades the world has been traveling to Cuba and nothing has changed,” he added.
Republican Sen. Marco Rubio also criticized the policy, saying it represented “the first steps toward Obama’s failed policies on Cuba.”