By Michael Hernandez
The Obama administration on Tuesday continued to ease sanctions against Cuba, removing financial restrictions for most types of authorized exports and facilitating air travel between the former foes.
The new amendments to the Cuban Assets Control Regulations “will remove existing restrictions on payment and financing terms for authorized exports and reexports to Cuba of items other than agricultural items or commodities,” the Treasury and Commerce departments said in a statement.
Travel to the island nation will also be facilitated by allowing blocked space, code-sharing and leasing arrangements with Cuban airlines, the departments said.
The new regulations further authorize economic transitions related to professional meetings and other events, disaster preparedness and response projects, and information and informational materials, including transactions incident to professional media or artistic productions in Cuba.
“Engagement and purposeful steps like those announced today will continue to empower the Cuban people and advance our enduring objectives of supporting human rights, improving the lives of the Cuban people, and promoting closer ties between our peoples,” National Security Council spokesman Ned Price said in a statement.
Cuba and the U.S. moved to restore full diplomatic relations in December 2014, and reopened embassies last summer.
Ties were severed in 1961 amidst heightened Cold War tensions.
Tuesday’s changes are “another significant step toward normalization” between Havana and Washington, said Mavis Anderson, a senior associate with the Latin America Working Group – an advocacy coalition working to improve the U.S.’s policies on human rights, peace and justice with Latin American countries.
She lauded as “especially significant” the restoration of authorities for U.S. banks to provide financing for exports and re-exports, but said that Congress must act to lift the remaining barriers still in place from the U.S.’ 1960 embargo on the island nation.
“The President has done most of what he can do by executive order. Congress must accept its responsibility and definitively end the embargo by law,” she said.