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Biden administration to expand flights to Cuba, resume family reunifications

Biden administration to expand flights to Cuba, resume family reunifications
Biden administration said Monday it allow U.S. airlines to serve Cuban cities beyond Havana as part of revised policy toward the island nation. File Photo by Ernesto Mastrascusa/EPA-EFE

May 16 (UPI) -- After a months-long review, the Biden administration announced Monday it will allow flights to more Cuban cities and reinstate a family reunification program suspended by former President Donald Trump.

The decision follows a lengthy review of U.S.-Cuban policy as the communist island nation faces widespread food and medicine shortages.

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Under the changes, U.S. airlines will now be allowed to fly to cities other than the capital of Havana -- a restriction that had left many Americans with few options to visit their families elsewhere in Cuba.

Additionally, the Cuban Family Reunification Parole Program will resume taking cases for the first time since 2016. A $1,000 quarterly cap on money sent to families on the island will be lifted as well.

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State Department spokesman Ned Price said the goal is to support the Cuban people.

"We will make it easier for families to visit their relatives in Cuba and for authorized U.S. travelers to engage with the Cuban people, attend meetings and conduct research," he said.

The administration has been conducting a review of Trump's Cuba policies since taking office last year. Candidate Joe Biden promised during the 2020 presidential campaign he would "try to reverse the failed Trump policies that inflicted harm on Cubans and their families."

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Trump placed restrictions on American business and tourism in Cuba in 2017 to keep U.S. dollars from reaching Havana's military.

Senate foreign relations committee chairman Bob Melendez, D-N.J., said the decision "risks sending the wrong message to the wrong people, at the wrong time and for all the wrong reasons."

"I am dismayed to learn the Biden administration will begin authorizing group travel to Cuba through visits akin to tourism," he said. "To be clear, those who still believe that increasing travel will breed democracy in Cuba are simply in a state of denial. For decades, the world has been traveling to Cuba and nothing has changed."

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