Six ways Obama is changing U.S.-Cuba relations

More than 54 years after the U.S. cut off all ties with Cuba, President Barack Obama is making history by visiting the Caribbean island and restoring diplomatic and economic relations.
By Will Creighton   |   March 21, 2016 at 3:56 PM

President Barack Obama made history on Sunday, becoming the first president since Calvin Coolidge to visit communist Cuba

"It's been nearly 90 years since a U.S. president stepped foot in Cuba," Obama said after arriving with his family. "It is wonderful to be here."

Major changes have already happened, and more are rolling out. Is Cuba ready for the change? Here are Obama's primary goals:


Following a wave of nationalizations by the Cuban government in 1961, the United States cut off diplomatic relations with Cuba. President Obama reopened discussions with Cuba recently, working with them to re-establish embassies in Washington and Havana. The two nations have agreed to cooperate on migration, counternarcotics, environmental protection and human trafficking, among other issues.

American and Cuban flags fly in Havana, Cuba, on March 17. Photo by Olivier Douliery/ABACA/UPI
Ease regulations

President Obama is adjusting regulations, improving travel and remittance policies to further "people-to-people contact, support civil society in Cuba, and enhance the free flow of information to, from, and among the Cuban people."

The first family toured Havana's iconic streets – where a sidewalk haircut can be had. Photo by Olivier Douliery/ABACA/UPI
Expand travel

The United States is restoring more than 100 direct commercial roundtrip flights a day to Cuba. The goal is to help the Cuban economy grow and open Cuba to foreign ideas and culture.

Havana's iconic streets feature vintage American cars kept running since before the two nations severed ties. The American embassy compound is visible in the background. Photo by Olivier Douliery/ABACA/UPI

Easing a longtime trade embargo, expanded sales and exports of certain goods and services are now being allowed from the United States to Cuba. It's expected this change will make it easier for Cuban citizens get lower-priced goods, which will improve living standards and limit dependence on the Cuban government.

A portrait of President Obama hangs on a Havana street. Photo by Olivier Douliery/ABACA/UPI

Americans are now allowed to import more goods from Cuba, though this will not include any of the hundreds of vintage cars that survive on the island. Licensed U.S. travelers to Cuba will be authorized to import $400 of goods from Cuba – but no more than $100 of Cuba's world-famous cigars or rum.

Havana is well known for its vintage American cars, but American collectors will find it tough to bring any of them home. Photo by Olivier Douliery/ABACA/UPI
Expanded communications

With internet penetration of just 5 percent, Cuba is one of the least connected countries in the world. Telecom companies are now allowed to build infrastructure in Cuba for commercial phone and internet services, expanding coverage and lowering the cost for the island's citizens.

Havana's streets have a maze of wires, but not for internet access. Photo by Olivier Douliery/ABACA/UPI
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