MIAMI – On Monday, the Biden administration announced a series of measures it says will “increase support for the Cuban people and protect our national security interests.”
The administration is focused on the following policies: restoring Cuba’s parole program for family reunification, which would increase consular services and visa processing; more trips to the island and increase the amount of money families can send to the island.
“With these actions, we aim to support Cubans’ aspirations for freedom and greater economic opportunity so they can lead successful lives at home,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said. “We continue to call on the Cuban government to immediately release political prisoners, respect the fundamental freedoms of the Cuban people, and allow the Cuban people to determine their own future.
Minutes after the announcement, New Jersey Senator Bob Menendez, a Democrat, criticized the Biden administration for the changes.
“I am appalled to learn that the Biden administration will begin allowing group travel to Cuba through tourism-like tours. To be clear, those who still believe that increased travel will spawn democracy in Cuba are simply in a state of denial,” Menendez said.
“For decades, the world has traveled to Cuba and nothing has changed. For years the United States foolishly relaxed travel restrictions arguing that millions of US dollars would bring freedom and nothing changed. And as I warned at the time, the regime finally laughed off any promise to loosen its iron grip on the Cuban people and we ended up helping fund the machinery behind their continued oppression,” he said. he adds.
Here is how the State Department described the changes to Cuban policy:
Facilitate family reunification by reinstating the Cuban Family Reunification Parole Program (CFRP) and continuing to increase the capacity of consular services. Limited immigrant visa processing resumed in Havana on May 3, 2022. We will reinstate the CFRP and increase visa processing in Havana while continuing to process the majority of immigrant visa cases at the US Embassy. United States in Georgetown, Guyana.
Strengthen family ties and facilitate educational relationships for the American and Cuban people by expanding authorized travel for the Cuban people. We will allow scheduled and charter flights to destinations beyond Havana. We will also implement regulatory changes to reinstate person-to-person groups and other categories of group educational travel, as well as certain travel related to professional meetings and professional research, in particular to support the expansion of the Internet access and remittance processing companies and to provide additional support. to Cuban entrepreneurs. We are not reinstating individual person-to-person travel.
Increase support for independent Cuban entrepreneurs. We will encourage business opportunities outside the public sector by enabling access to extended cloud technology, application programming interfaces and e-commerce platforms. We will explore options to expand support for additional payment options for internet business, electronic payments, and business with independent Cuban entrepreneurs. We will work to expand entrepreneurs’ access to microfinance and training.
Ensure that remittances flow more freely to the Cuban people without enriching those who commit human rights abuses. Specifically, we will remove the current family remittance limit of $1,000 per quarter per sender-receiver pair and allow gift (i.e. non-family) remittances, which will support independent Cuban entrepreneurs. We will work with electronic payment processors to encourage greater accessibility to the Cuban market. We will not remove entities from Cuba’s restricted list.
In short, the Cuban government called the change a limited step in the right direction.
The decision does not change the US embargo, the fraudulent inclusion of Cuba in the list of countries that sponsor terrorism or the majority of the consistent maximum pressure actions of the Trump administration which still affect the Cuban people, the minister said. Cuban Foreign Affairs, Bruno Rodriguez. on Twitter.
govt. the announcement is a limited step in the right direction. This decision does not modify the blockade, #Cubathe fraudulent inclusion of Trump in the list of countries sponsoring terrorism or most of Trump’s maximum pressure coercive measures that still affect the Cuban people.
— Bruno Rodríguez P (@BrunoRguezP) May 17, 2022
“I think it’s a result or a reaction to the large number of migrants, Cuban migrants that we’ve seen,” said Andy Gomez, a retired University of Miami professor and Cuban analyst.
The US Coast Guard and Department of Homeland Security have recorded record numbers of Cubans intercepted at the US border.
The bans have been significant even along Florida’s south coast, where the desperation to flee the communist island to try for a better life in the United States has turned deadly in some cases.
The Biden administration’s plan includes rolling back Trump-era restrictions on remittances people can send to Cubans.
The previous limit of $1,000 per quarter has been lifted and the United States will soon allow flights, both commercial and charter, to fly into cities in Cuba, with the strict exception of Havana.
Gomez thinks the policy change may be too late to stop the attempted mass migration across the border by the island’s youth.
“They tell me it’s not going to help them in the long run, neither the Cuban economy nor the situation,” he said. “They still don’t see a future for them on the island, their goal is to get out of there as soon as possible.”
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