Changes in US-Cuba relations

This item appears on page 20 of the February 2015 issue.

US president Barack Obama on Dec. 17 revealed plans for changes in US policy toward Cuba, including plans to ease travel restrictions to Cuba for US citizens, ease financial restrictions, increase telecommunication links and lift the US trade embargo against Cuba.

Both countries made early concessions, with Cuba releasing American citizen Alan Gross, who has been in prison in Cuba for five years, and with the US releasing three Cuban prisoners who had been convicted of espionage. 

Where, previously, travelers to Cuba could bring $300 worth of goods into the US that were purchased in Cuba for personal use, excluding cigars and alcohol, as of Dec. 17 travelers now can bring back up to $400 worth of goods for personal use, including up to $100 worth of cigars and alcohol.

Despite Obama’s call for changes in relations with Cuba, Congress is the only body in the US government able to make changes to Cuba policy, and some members of Congress have said they will block any normalization of relations with Cuba, including blocking the confirmation of any ambassador.