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U.S. to Restore Full Relations with Cuba

On Dec. 17, 2014, President Barack Obama made a surprise announcement ordering the restoration of full diplomatic relations with Cuba. This historic deal ends a 54-year stalemate between the neighboring countries separated by a mere 90 miles of ocean. The President has provided a new approach in the hope of promoting more effective change that will support the Cuban people, as well as our national security interests.
Below is what the President’s new approach includes:
1. Re-establish diplomatic relations
Diplomatic relations with Cuba were severed in January of 1961. The President has reopened discussions with Cuba to work on re-establishing an embassy in Havana in the next coming months. The U.S. will also work with Cuba on matters of mutual concern, such as migration, counter narcotics, environmental protection, and trafficking in persons, among others.
2. More effectively empower the Cuban people by adjusting regulations
Steps will be taken to improve travel and remittance policies that will further increase people-to-people contact, support civil society in Cuba, and embrace the free flow of information to, from, and among the Cuban people.
3. Facilitate expansion of travel to Cuba
With expanded travel, Americans will be able to help support the growth of civil society in Cuba more easily and provide business training for private Cuban businesses and small farmers.
Currently, licenses for travel to Cuba will be authorized for travelers in 12 existing categories including: family visits; official U.S. government business; journalistic activity; professional research and professional meetings; educational activities; religious activities; support for the Cuban people; humanitarian projects; activities of private foundations or educational institutions; the exportation, importation, or transmission of information; and certain export transactions that may be considered for authorization under existing regulations and guidelines.
4. Authorize expanded sales and exports of certain goods and services from the U.S. to Cuba
The expansion will seek to empower the growing Cuban private sector and make it easier for Cuban citizens to have access to certain lower-priced goods to improve their living standards and gain greater economic independence from the state.
5. Authorize American citizens to import additional goods from Cuba
Licensed U.S. travelers to Cuba will be authorized to import $400 worth of goods from Cuba, of which no more than $100 can consist of tobacco and alcohol products.
6. Initiate new efforts to increase Cubans’ access to communications and their ability to communicate freely
n Cuba currently has an internet penetration of about 5 percent, one of the lowest rates in the world. The cost of telecommunications in Cuba is exorbitantly high, while the services offered are extremely limited. Now, telecommunication providers will be allowed to establish the necessary mechanisms, including infrastructure, in Cuba to provide commercial telecommunications and internet services.
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