Senate Committee approves measure to end restrictions on travel to Cuba

Granma | Friday, 24 July 2015 | Click here for original article

WASHINGTON.— Yesterday July 23, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved an amendment to the proposed 2016 government budget which could relax restrictions on travel to Cuba by U.S. citizens, and allow increased trade between the two countries.

The amendment received bipartisan support, with 14 Democrats and four Republicans on the committee voting to add the amendment to the budget bill.

This is the first step to be taken in Congress opposing the blockade since diplomatic relations were reestablished between the two countries July 20.

The Appropriations Committee, which is dominated by Republicans, also approved two other amendments to allow the granting of credit to Cuba for purchases of U.S. agricultural products, and to vacate blockade regulations prohibiting ships which have docked in Cuba from entering a U.S. port for a period of 180 days.

Nevertheless, if the measures are to be implemented, they must be approved in their entirety by the full Senate and subsequently considered by the House of Representatives.

The House of Representatives’ Appropriations Committee has, in fact, gone in the opposite direction in terms of Cuba, but most analysts agree that differences within the Republican Party will deter those who would like reverse epolicy changes introduced by President Obama.

Current law prohibits U.S. citizens from visiting Cuba as tourists, although the Obama administration has taken steps to facilitate the granting of general licenses in a dozen categories based on a variety of reasons for travel, including religious, cultural and ‘people to people’ exchanges.

“This is a first step by the Senate to dismantle a discredited and counterproductive policy that in 54 years has failed to achieve any of its objectives,” said Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy, according to the New York Times.

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