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Obama eases travel restrictions for Cuba

The United States has announced a major policy shift by lifting travel restrictions for Cuban-Americans. Washington hopes the new measures will induce the communist state to pursue democratic reforms.

Close-up picture of US President Barack Obama

US President Barack Obama hopes communist Cuba will implement democratic reforms

US President Barack Obama has issued an executive order that lifts restrictions on Cuban Americans traveling and sending money back to the communist island as part of a much-anticipated reversal of US policy.

Obama also directed his government to look into the possibility of starting regularly scheduled commercial flights to Cuba. Currently air travel between Cuba and the United States is still limited to charter flights.

Obama's executive order calls for more humanitarian donations to be sent to Cuba as well as expanded communications links. US telecommunications companies will be allowed to reach agreements to provide fiber-optic cable and satellite communications in Cuba.

Although the new measures mark a major US policy shift, they do not eliminate Washington's 47-year-old trade embargo against Cuba, and travel restrictions for most non-Cuban Americans will stay in place.

The White House hopes its new approach will encourage Cuba's one-party state, currently led by President Raul Castro, to start implementing democratic reforms. These have long been demanded by Washington as a condition for removing sanctions imposed after Fidel Castro took power in 1959.




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