“We will make it easier for families to visit loved ones in Cuba and for authorized American travelers to engage with the Cuban people, attend meetings and conduct research,” spokesman Ned Price said in a statement. a statement.
The Biden administration is also lifting the cap on family remittances of $1,000 per quarter “and will support remittances to Cuban entrepreneurs, both with the goal of empowering families to support each other and entrepreneurs to grow their businesses,” Price said.
President Joe Biden promised in September 2020, during the campaign, that he would “try to reverse Trump’s failed policies that have hurt Cubans and their families.” His administration had conducted a review of Trump’s Cuba policies since Biden took office in January 2021. How Biden navigates Cuba could have political implications, given that he lost Florida to Trump. in the 2020 election after the former president repeatedly claimed that Biden would transform the United States into a “socialist country” if he won, a message that resonated with Cuban Americans.
The announced changes to Cuba’s policy came after a lengthy review ordered by the president and are the biggest policy moves toward the island since Biden took office. Yet they refrain from fully reinstating the Obama-Biden administration’s approach to Cuba, leaving some restrictions in place and maintaining sanctions against certain entities.
The United States will still ban American tourism to Cuba and not allow individuals to travel there for educational purposes, even after easing some Trump-era restrictions on the island, senior officials said Monday. administration.
But the changes will increase the number of commercial and charter flights to Cuba, including to cities beyond Havana, and allow more Americans to interact with the Cuban people through authorized group tours “from person to person”.
This “will enable greater engagement between the American people … and their democratic values,” a senior administration official said.
The United States still plans to process immigrant visas at its embassy in Guyana as it struggles to staff its facilities in Havana, which have been downsized following further health incidents. unexplained among diplomats and staff. Biden asked his team to increase embassy staff, in part to make it easier to apply for immigrant visas.
The announcement comes as Biden faces a decision on whether to invite Cuban leaders to the upcoming Americans’ Summit, which he is hosting in Los Angeles in early June. Officials insisted the changes announced on Monday had nothing to do with the summit and the controversy surrounding its potential exclusion of some regional leaders.
“We should focus on solving a whole range of common challenges in the region and not blow up the summit on who shows up and who doesn’t,” an official said.
Instead, they said the lifting of restrictions came after months of deliberation and study, which Biden ordered following protests in Cuba last year.
One official described the changes as “practical steps we are taking to address the humanitarian situation and to meet the needs of the Cuban people.”
This story has been updated with additional reports.