The White House administration began chipping away at the United States embargo against the Caribbean nation of Cuba. The Obama administration announced new changes that take effect on Friday that allow more trade as well as travel between the two nations.
These changes were announced even though there were concerns voiced from members of the U.S. Congress who said that the shift in relations between the U.S. and Cuba is one-sided and will only benefit the Castro regime.
The changes come just three days after officials in the U.S. confirmed that Cuba had released 53 political prisoners, but some of the former prisoners are allegedly facing continued restrictions and their movements are being monitored.
Announced on Thursday, the new Commerce and Treasury Department regulations are the President’s next step in his goal to re-establish full diplomatic relations with the Cuban government led by President Raul Castro.
Only the U.S. Congress can put an end to the embargo of five decades, but the new measures place enough changes on it that weakens it greatly.
Amongst the changes: U.S. citizens can now start bringing home Cuban cigars after a ban of close to five decades.
Americans can now use credit cards while in Cuba. Companies in the U.S. can export computer, telephone and Internet technologies.
Investments in certain small to midsize businesses will be permitted.
General travel for tourism will remain prohibited, but Americans who receive authorization to visit the Caribbean island nation do not have to apply for any special licenses.
Obama has vowed to make the embargo softer and begin restoring full diplomatic relations with Havana. The president said that isolation for 50 years has not worked.
This new agreement came to fruition after secret talks of 18 months that ended with the exchange of spies who were in jail and the release of a government contractor held in a Cuban jail.
The new rapprochement between the two foes of the Cold War had divided lawmakers on Capitol Hill across party lines.
Beginning Friday, companies in the U.S. can export televisions, computers, mobile phones, recording devices, and software to Cuba, where there is a notoriously poor telecommunication and Internet infrastructure.