August 18th, 2010
05:43 PM ET
10 years ago

Obama administration preparing to loosen rules on Cuba travel

Washington (CNN) - The Obama administration is preparing to announce new rules allowing some travel to Cuba, along with an expanded ability for Americans to send economic assistance, a senior U.S.official and congressional sources told CNN Wednesday.

According to two congressional aides briefed informally on the plans, the administration is expected to announce "soon" that it will essentially reinstate measures that were in place under the Clinton administration.

Both aides stressed the administration is still working through the details and legal language.

"It's a return to Clinton, plus some," one aide told CNN, noting that President George Bush tightened restrictions on travel and cultural exchanges.

The central component of the policy involves "people to people" exchanges that would allow academics, corporations, humanitarian groups, and athletic teams to travel to Cuba. The administration is not lifting tourist travel limits or the strict trade restrictions currently in place, but would promote cultural exchanges, programs with universities, or allow U.S. farms to send assistance to Cuban farmers as part of the new rules.

One of the aides who supports the changes stressed that the goal is to allow travel for people to help Cubans build their own economy and culture.

The policy is "to go down there give a message of hope, to help the Cuban people forge their own future as they want, not necessarily as the way another government wants."

In addition, the administration is planning to expand the policy it announced last year that allowed Cuban-Americans to send "remittances" or economic support to family members in Cuba. The new regulations would allow any U.S. citizen, including universities, churches and businesses, also to send money or sponsor a partner in Cuba. There would be a cap on the amount of money that could be sent.

The new policy would make it easier for universities, sports teams and businesses to set up exchanges. The State Department would shift its current policy that now denies visas for Cubans to travel to the U.S., to one that gives a "presumption of approval," unless a review discovers a problem with the request.

While the administration cannot change current travel restrictions without congressional approval, it does have the authority to loosen visa rules

The congressional aides expected the administration to unveil the changes through a statement by the president or the secretary of state, along with text of the new regulations.

State Department spokesman Mark Toner said Tuesday that while he had nothing to announce, "our overarching goal here is to encourage a more open environment in Cuba and increased respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. And, consistent with that objective, we've promoted measures to encourage the free flow of information and humanitarian items to the Cuban people."

Likewise, White House Deputy Press Secretary Bill Burton gave no details in response to reporters' questions Tuesday but added "...the president is going to continue to do things that are in the best interest of the United States and that help to create a more democratic environment and expand freedoms for the Cuban people."

- CNN Senior State Department Producer Elise Labott contributed to this report.

Filed under: Cuba • Obama administration
soundoff (17 Responses)
  1. LacrosseMom(the real one)

    GOOD! The U.S. Embargo against Cuba has been a complete failure! Millions of American dollars go to Castro each year from Cuban-Americans who send dollars to their relatives in Cuba! Stop this nonsense!

    President Obama end the embargo, its just plain ..........silly!

    August 18, 2010 05:46 pm at 5:46 pm |
  2. Claudia, Houston, Tx

    Keep moving forward and leave the Republicans behind because that's exactly where they want to take our country, back.

    August 18, 2010 05:49 pm at 5:49 pm |
  3. Naqib

    About time really.

    Kennedy started this due to his being played like a fool by Castro... and for some reason we never changed it. Bring on the cigars!

    August 18, 2010 05:51 pm at 5:51 pm |
  4. Augsbee

    Obviously, these people don't know how Cuban people think in Cuba. They do realize that Cubans in Cuba are very happy not having to work?????? or worry about anything???? I met a Cuban group who went back because they had to work in our country.

    August 18, 2010 05:51 pm at 5:51 pm |
  5. Flagship, NC

    It is about time!

    August 18, 2010 05:59 pm at 5:59 pm |
  6. aunt Bea and Opie

    If we can buy and sell with commies in China and Vietnam,why not Cuba?Maybe we can sell them some more jobs like Bush did,that wont return until we take 50 cents an hour for pay like the Globalists want us to do.

    August 18, 2010 06:01 pm at 6:01 pm |
  7. nathan

    WOW !!!!! I would to travel to Cuba.

    August 18, 2010 06:24 pm at 6:24 pm |
  8. nini

    Obama administration does what it knows best appeasing the dictators.

    August 18, 2010 06:57 pm at 6:57 pm |
  9. jules sand-perkins

    Good show for this administration!
    There's no reason we shouldn't be able to visit Cuba.
    However...what's there, though, that you can't find on another island, unless you have Cuban relatives?
    Why not Paris? Nicer place to visit...the results of capitalism?

    August 18, 2010 07:07 pm at 7:07 pm |
  10. Stinky from NJ

    Good. He needs to get more hardcore though, start taking over more industries and busting some heads. It's the only way communism will ever work, you have to control people.

    August 18, 2010 07:53 pm at 7:53 pm |
  11. vic

    Good Job
    GOP make our enemy list which county they want go to war but who is steeling our jobs and our economy are GOP friends list

    August 18, 2010 07:55 pm at 7:55 pm |
  12. Marie MD

    About time. The only people being hurt by the embargo are the Cuban people. The government folks have enough food and money to live.

    August 18, 2010 08:10 pm at 8:10 pm |
  13. darryn

    No where in the world does the US attacks,blockade,invade or occupy where the majority of the population is White.

    August 18, 2010 08:34 pm at 8:34 pm |
  14. Clwyd

    It is about time! When the tourists and foreigners get seen and talk with the Cuban people this regime will crumble. If Cuba nationals could go back it would speed things up even faster!

    August 18, 2010 09:12 pm at 9:12 pm |
  15. Minnesotan

    Cuban travel is cool, but for God's Sake, let us buy Cuban Cigars!

    August 18, 2010 09:27 pm at 9:27 pm |
  16. L

    Bravo! 40 plus years of embargo has produced nothing. Castro is still in power.

    The smart move should be to recognize that Castro and his peers are aging. We should be opening trade doors to encourage a prosperous middle class that will push for more opportunities and freedoms. They will be the next generation of leaders.

    Trade embargoes are largely useless and mainly provide the target with a ready excuse for all of it's failings. Imagine for example If the A major nation embargoed us. We'd tell them to go to h@&$ and endure what mess we needed to just to stick it to them. Castro has played the "evil USA" card for years and we've eagerly played into his hands.

    August 18, 2010 10:22 pm at 10:22 pm |
  17. barry

    Great! Make arrangements for him and Joe Biden to leave for there immediately. Tell them it's for the summer of recovery tour so they can be excited about the trip. Leave them down there and put Hillary in charge and let her clean this mess up before we Democrats lose it all.

    August 18, 2010 11:18 pm at 11:18 pm |