The United States plans to take a series of steps to review its policy on Cubaincluding easing some Trump-era restrictions on family remittances and travel to the island, as well as dramatically increasing US visa processing for Cubans, administration officials said Monday.
The measures, which come after a lengthy review by Washington, mark the most significant changes in the approach to Havana since the President Joe Biden he took office in January 2021.
But the announcement does not carry the relations between USA Y Cuba to the point of the historic rapprochement crafted by former President Barack Obama, of which Biden was vice president, which included less restricted remittance flows, fewer travel limitations and faster visa services.
Officials said that among the measures announced Monday, the United States would lift the cap on family remittances, previously set at $1,000 per quarter, and allow donations to non-family members.
However, the representatives made it clear that the United States would not remove entities from a State Department list of companies aligned with the Cuban government and military, with which US companies and citizens are prohibited from doing business.
“We are going to ensure that remittances flow more freely to the Cuban people, without enriching those who commit human rights abuses,” the official said.
The United States will use civilian “electronic payment processors” for remittances to prevent funds from going directly to the Cuban government, the representatives said.
Biden officials have been mindful that easing restrictions on Cuba could lead to political fallout with conservative Cuban Americans, a key voting bloc in South Florida that largely backed former President Trump’s tough policies.
Trump has cut visa processing, restricted remittances, reduced flights to the island and increased obstacles for US citizens seeking to travel to Cuba for anything other than family visits.
Officials gave few details about how the new policy would be implemented.
Among the changes is a plan to reinstate the Conditional Family Reunification Program for Cubans, which had provided a legal way for Cuban families to reunite in the United States, and increase the capacity of consular services.
Washington will aim to issue 20,000 immigrant visas a year, the official said.
The US embassy in Havana began issuing a trickle of immigrant visas to Cubans this month, fulfilling an earlier promise to restart visa processing on the island after a four-year hiatus.
The State Department under Trump slashed embassy staff in 2017 following a series of “anomalous health incidents” that became known as “Havana syndrome.”
Instead, Cubans seeking to immigrate to the United States were told to apply for visas in person at US embassies, first in Colombia and then in Guyana, costly journeys out of reach for many.
The Biden administration will also expand authorized travel to Cuba, allowing flights to and from the country to use airports other than Havana, officials said.
Washington will also reinstate some categories of group educational travel, as well as those related to professional meetings and research.
But individual “person-to-person” travel will not be restored, officials said. The category was removed by Trump officials who said it was abused by Americans on beach vacations.
The United States will also increase permits for independent Cuban entrepreneurs, with the aim of facilitating internet access and expanding access to microfinance and training, among other measures.
Biden promised during the 2020 election to re-engage with Cuba. Instead, he imposed new sanctions on Cuban representatives in response to Havana’s crackdown on protesters following marches on the island last July.
Hundreds of people were arrested during and after the demonstrations, considered by many to be the largest protests since Fidel Castro’s revolution in 1959. Washington has condemned Cuban authorities for harsh sentences meted out to some protesters.
The Cuban government blamed the protests on US meddling.
Officials said no decision has been made on whether to invite Cuba to the US-hosted Summit of the Americas, despite threats from Mexico and others that they will not attend unless all countries in the Americas are invited. .