The Biden administration announced plans to lift Trump-era Cuba-related restrictions in May in a bid to re-engage.
The administration of US President Joe Biden has allowed more air travel between the United States and Cuba, lifting restrictions put in place under former President Donald Trump.
Restrictions lifted Wednesday by the U.S. Department of Transportation removed the ban on U.S. airlines and charter flights to major cities outside of Havana, including Camaguey, Cayo Coco, Cayo Largo, Cienfuegos, Manzanillo, Matanzas and Santiago from Cuba.
The Biden administration announced in May a plan to lift a series of restrictions imposed under Trump, which had sought to undo efforts by former President Barack Obama, under whom Biden served as vice president, to normalize relations between Washington and Havana in what has been dubbed the “Cuban thaw.”
On Wednesday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the lifting of flight restrictions was “in support of the Cuban people and in the interest of United States foreign policy.”
It was still unclear on Thursday if any commercial airlines planned to fly to the newly authorized destinations.
Relations between the United States and Cuba deteriorated rapidly after the Cuban Revolution of 1959, after which the United States repeatedly attempted to overthrow the communist government led by Fidel Castro, while continuously tightening an array of sanctions against Havana.
Relations hit a historic low when the Soviet Union sent ballistic missiles to Cuba amid the Cuban Missile Crisis, leading to a stalemate widely seen as the closest to nuclear war in the war. cold that lasted for decades.
The United States has imposed a trade embargo on almost all of Cuba’s exports since 1962.
In 2014, Obama announced with then-Cuban leader Raul Castro that the process of normalizing relations had begun.
The relaxation included the lifting of restrictions on travel, family remittances and access for US banks to Cuban financial systems.
Upon taking office in 2016, Trump sought to undo many efforts, imposing a series of restrictions, including reducing visa processing, restricting remittances, reducing flights and increasing barriers to US citizens wishing to travel to Cuba for something other than family visits.
Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo cited as justification Cuba’s continued harboring of American fugitives, its refusal to extradite a coterie of Colombian guerrilla commanders as well as its support for Venezuelan leader Nicolas Maduro.
On the campaign trail in 2020, Biden pledged to re-engage with Cuba, though the pledge was complicated by a crackdown on protesters in the island nation in July 2021 that resulted in more US sanctions.
The restrictions lifted to date do not go as far as the Obama-era thaw and do not restore all categories previously allowed for US citizens to travel to the island.
Among the measures announced in May, the State Department said the United States would lift the cap on family remittances, previously set at $1,000 per quarter, and allow gratuitous remittances to people not not belonging to the family.
The administration also announced plans to increase consular services and restore Cuba’s parole program for family reunification, which previously provided a legal pathway for families to be reunited in the United States.
Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies
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Last modification: June 7, 2022