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U.S. to lift travel, business restrictions against Cuba for first time in decades

By
Doug G. Ware
White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest holds the daily press briefing at the White House in Washington, D.C., Friday, Sept. 18, 2015. Earnest announced that the departments of Commerce and Treasury will remove a series of restrictions on Americans traveling to and doing business with Cuba, which will take effect Monday. Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI
White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest holds the daily press briefing at the White House in Washington, D.C., Friday, Sept. 18, 2015. Earnest announced that the departments of Commerce and Treasury will remove a series of restrictions on Americans traveling to and doing business with Cuba, which will take effect Monday. Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI | License Photo

WASHINGTON, Sept. 18 (UPI) -- The Obama administration on Friday announced the lifting of travel and business restrictions between the United States and Cuba -- clearing the way for Americans to visit and do business with Havana for the first time since the height of the Cold War.

The Obama administration announced the lifting of the restrictions Friday and said they would take effect Monday.

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The changes to the Cuban Assets Control Regulations and Export Administration Regulations means American citizens can travel to the Caribbean island and make financial transactions there. U.S. businesses can do direct business with Cuba, as well -- although the American embargo remains in place.

"Today's announcement underscores the Administration's commitment to promote constructive change for the Cuban people," Treasury Secretary Jack Lew said Friday. "These regulatory changes build on the revisions implemented earlier this year and will further ease sanctions related to travel, telecommunications and internet-based services, business operations in Cuba."

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"The regulations published today are designed to empower the Cuban people and support the emerging Cuban private sector, bringing us one step closer to achieving President Obama's historic policy goals," U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker said.

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Friday's announcement is the latest step in the U.S.-Cuban "thaw" -- which began last December when President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro announced they would take action to normalize relations for the first time since 1961.

The United States formally reestablished relations with Cuba on July 20, ending 54 years of diplomatic hostility. In May, the U.S. government removed Cuba from its list of nations that sponsor terrorism.

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Monday's changes mean, among other things, cruise lines will now be able to sail directly to Cuba without stopping in a third country. Americans can also establish banking accounts there, as well, and conduct financial and investment transactions.

"A stronger, more open U.S.-Cuba relationship has the potential to create economic opportunities for both Americans and Cubans alike," Lew added. "By further easing these sanctions, the United States is helping to support the Cuban people in their effort to achieve the political and economic freedom necessary to build a democratic, prosperous, and stable Cuba."

However, the U.S. embargo against Cuba -- which forbids imports and exports -- remains in place. Many U.S. leaders, including Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, have called for the end of the embargo -- which has been in place since October 1960.

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Also Friday, Obama accepted the first official credentials from a Cuban ambassador, Jose Ramon CabaƱas, since 1961.

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