Obama relaxes Cuba travel

News from Cuba | Monday, 23 May 2011

New rules issued by the Obama administration allow Americans wider access to Cuba

Americans could soon be able to visit Cuba legally without running foul of the Treasury Department, under new regulations coming out of the Obama administration. The travel will be limited under the guise of so-called people-to-people contact, to cultural and educational visits only, not full blown tourism. This would effectively restore US-Cuba travel limitations to the same status under the Clinton administration.

The new travel regs come on top of a recent relaxation of restrictions for academic and religious travel. The people-to-people contacts were approved in 1999 under the Clinton administration, but disappeared in 2004 as the Bush administration cracked down under pressure from hardline Cuban Americans in Miami. Many exiles argue that that more travel does nothing to promote democracy on the island, and puts hard currency in the cash-strapped hands of the Castro regime. In the past, people-to-people travel permitted all kinds of travel, varying from music and dance, to architecture and art tours, and environmental research. Cuban officials say privately they expect as many as 500,000 visitors from the United States annually, according to the AP, though most are expected to be Cuban-

Americans visiting relatives under rules relaxed in 2009. That would make travelers from the United States the second biggest group visiting Cuba after Canadians, with Italians and Germans next on the list.

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