Obama lifts restrictions on travel, money transfers to Cuba

April 14, 2009 10:18 am 

WASHINGTON, April 14 — U.S. President Barack Obama on Monday lifted restrictions on travel and money transfers by Cuban- Americans to Cuba, said the White House in a statement.

"Supporting the Cuban people's desire to freely determine their future and that of their country is in the national interest of the United States," said the statement.

"The Obama administration is taking steps to promote greater contact between separated family members in the United States and Cuba and increase the flow of remittances and information to the Cuban people," said the statement.

According to the statement, President Obama has directed the Secretaries of State, Treasury, and Commerce to take the needed steps to lift all restrictions on transactions related to the travel of family members to Cuba and to remove restrictions on remittances to family members in Cuba.

The administration has been asked to authorize U.S. telecommunications network providers to enter into agreements to establish fiber-optic cable and satellite telecommunications facilities linking the United States and Cuba.

The administration has also been asked to license U.S. telecommunications service providers to enter into roaming service agreements with Cuba's telecommunications service providers, and to license U.S. satellite radio and satellite television service providers to engage in transactions necessary to provide services to customers in the country.

Although the easing of restriction, which would affect some 1.5 million Americans with family members in Cuba, has not eliminated U.S. trade embargo against Cuba imposed 47 years ago, it has been seen as a major policy shift from the Bush administration's hawkish approach.

Since the 1959 Cuban Revolution, the U.S.-Cuba relations have deteriorated with sustaining tension and confrontation. The previous U.S. administration under President George W. Bush imposed restrictions on travel and money transfers to Cuba for Cuban-Americans.

In his campaign speech last May, Obama said he wanted to remove the restrictions so that Americans could visit relatives and transfer money to their families in Cuba, and that he would be willing to speak with Cuban leaders "without preconditions."

On Friday, Obama will participate in the Fifth Summit of the Americas in Trinidad and Tobago and discuss topics ranging from the global economic crisis to regional security with other 33 national leaders in the hemisphere.

The issue of Cuba will likely become a topic of discussion. (PNA/Xinhua) ALM/ebp

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