Travel to Cuba for relatives just got a little easier.
Cuban Americans are now free to visit relatives on the island once a year and stay as long as they like, using a new license issued by the Obama administration.
The general license for travel by Cuban Americans removes a tricky loophole Congress created in its 2009 budget bill, which removed funding for enforcing travel restrictions but did not lift the restrictions.
That meant traveling to Cuba would have been illegal, but a passenger was not likely to get caught.
With the new license, created late Wednesday, the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control officially lifted the tightened restrictions enacted by President Bush in 2004, which had limited trips to every three years and only to see immediate relatives.
While advocates for liberalized travel to the island welcomed the news, they cautioned that it is still not what President Barack Obama promised on the campaign trail: no restrictions at all.
”This is a step in the right direction,” said Silvia Wilhelm, executive director of the Cuban American Commission for Family Rights, which advocated for the change. ”This is not a presidential executive order removing all restrictions.”
The White House hinted that this is just a first step and that eventually the restrictions that were imposed by the Bush administration will be lifted completely, as the president promised in his campaign.
This is good news for everyone, even those who are still under the ancient impression that the embargo imposed in the Kennedy administration has done anything more than punish the Cuban people. (How many of those folks who supported the tighter restrictions will now find a rationale for going to Havana as soon as possible?) As I’ve noted time and again, instead of having the desired effect of getting rid of the Castro regime, all the embargo has done is give them an excuse to justify their thuggish and brutal behavior.