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    Tourists take a ride in a classic American convertible car with the Cuban national flag

    Havana Back in Business as US Eases Sanctions

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    Starting January 16, US nationals will be permitted to travel to Cuba, sell telecommunications equipment, bring back souvenirs, tobacco and alcohol.

    MOSCOW, January 15 (Sputnik) – The US Treasury Department has announced an overhaul of US sanctions against Cuba starting Friday, greatly easing restrictions on travel, raising remittance limits andpermitting the export of communications equipment such a cell phones and computers.

    "These changes will have a direct impact in further engaging and empowering the Cuban people," Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew said in a statement. "By increasing travel, commerce, communications and private business development between the United States and Cuba, the United States can help the Cuban people determine their own future."

    The regulations carry out changes in US Cuban policy announced by President Barack Obama on December 17. According to the White House, they will end an outdated approach that failed to advance American interests and create more opportunities for people of the United States and Cuba.

    However, tourism and imports of general goods will still be banned. Americans will also be allowed to use credit cards in Cuba, and bring as back as much $400 in souvenirs, including up to $100 in alcohol and tobacco products. US health insurance companies will be authorized to cover health, life and travel insurance policies for travelers to Cuba.

    The export of telecommunications equipment, now allowed under an exception called "Support for the Cuban People," will allow the commercial sale of computers, cell phones, televisions, memory devices, recording devices and software to Cuba.
    Exports for the purposes of improving living conditions such as construction equipment are allowed under the condition that they are sold to private sector entrepreneurs under the provision.

    Banks will be allowed to open accounts at Cuban financial institutions to facilitate the processing of credit and debit card transactions in Cuba. Remittance limits will be raised from $500 to $2000 every three months, with no limit for remittances for the purposes of humanitarian projects and the development of telecommunications and private business. One of the organization types listed as without a remittance limit is "independent organizations designed to promote a rapid, peaceful transition to democracy."

    US nationals with family members in Cuba will be allowed to carry up to $10,000 in remittances with them to Cuba.

    Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew also pointed out that Cuba has the real potential for economic growth through increased travel, commerce, communications, and private business development between the United States and Cuba.

    Since 1961, the United States has kept an embargo in place against Cuba due to Cold-War antagonism between Washington and the Communist government in Havana. Marking a thaw in US-Cuban ties, President Obama announced last December he was ready to turn the page on the countries' relations.


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