WASHINGTON (Sputnik) — The United States and Cuba will probably launch a direct postal service at the beginning of 2016, US Deputy Assistant Secretary for South America and Cuba Alex Lee told Sputnik on the sidelines of the Cuba Summit in Washington, DC.
"[W]e’re getting very close and it is our hope we’ll be able to reach an agreement soon and will be able to announce the establishment of direct postal service hopefully early next year," Lee said on Thursday. "[T]hat would be a major quality of life improvement for communities of Cubans on both sides of the Florida straits."
Lee noted that the Cuban and US governments have long wanted to establish direct mail service and are taking a very pragmatic stand about it.
In December 2014, US President Barack Obama announced the United States would normalize relations with Cuba. The two countries reopened embassies in their respective capitals on July 20, after more than 50 years of non-engagement.
"Actually, the number of Americans travelling to Cuba has greatly increased and the number of Cubans travelling to the US has greatly increased," Lee said on the sidelines of the Cuba Summit in Washington, DC on Thursday.
The State Department official explained now there is two-way traffic of Cubans and Cuban Americans going back and forth the two countries in addition to Americans who not of Cuban origin.
However, Lee noted the US Congress must remove the existing embargo the United States still maintains in the island nation in order to "fully allow Americans to go back and forth without trying to see if they belong in one of those 12 categories."
US citizens are allowed to travel to Cuba for 12 specific purposes that are listed in the US Treasury Department’s Cuban Assets Control Regulations. They include journalistic, educational, religious, professional and humanitarian activities, in addition to family visits and "support for the Cuban people."
In September, the Obama administration announced it was relaxing regulations with Cuba, making it easier for US citizens to travel and conduct business there.
Despite improving relations, the United States still maintains a congressionally-mandate trade embargo on Cuba.