CaribWorldNews, WASHINGTON, D.C. Fri. Sept. 4, 2009: Some nine months after taking office, the Obama administration has moved to ease restrictions on travel and money transfers to Cuba.
The US Treasury Thursday said it would now immediately allow U.S. based Cubans to send any amount of money to close relatives on the island.
However, restrictions remain on sending money to `prohibited` officials in the Cuban government and members of the Communist Party while
US-based travelers are limited to spending 179 dollars a day on their visit to Cuban relatives.
Additionally, U.S. Cuban travelers may now visit `close relatives` (including, for example, aunts, uncles, cousins, and second cousins) who are nationals of Cuba,` a statement from the agency said, adding that there was no limit on the duration or frequency of the visits.
The moves comes five months after President Barack Obama announced the measures in a bid to improve ties with the communist island and days after Amnesty International urged Obama to lift the 47-year-old US economic embargo on Cuba.
The embargo, however, remains solidly in place but the Treasury Department said its goal is to `promote greater contact between separated family members in the United States and Cuba` and also to `increase the flow of remittances and information to the Cuban people.`
An estimated 1.5 million US residents have relatives in Cuba.
The Treasury Department also announced a new general license that authorizes `travel-related transactions incident to agricultural and medical sales.`
US law permits states to sell agricultural, medical and information technology products on a cash basis to Cuba. Since 2000, such sales have totaled more than three billion dollars.