After more than half a century, the U.S. government announced Wednesday that it will put an end to the embargo against Cuba. The policy changes, released in a White House briefing, will have a profound impact on citizens of both countries. Among the changes:
• U.S. President Barack Obama has promised to re-establish diplomatic relations with Cuba for the first time since in 1961. The U.S. will set up an embassy in Havana.
The two countries will co-operate on issues such as migration, counternarcotics, the environment, and human trafficking.
• Regular American tourists still won’t be able to get visas, but the U.S. will allow travel for people in 12 categories: family visits, government business, professional meetings and research, journalistic, educational and religious activities, attending performances, workshops or athletic competitions and exhibitions, humanitarian projects or other activities in support of the Cuban people.
Travellers to the country will be able to use U.S. credit and debit cards and those returning to the U.S. will be allowed to bring back up to $400 worth of goods that can include up to $100 of the renowned Cuban cigars.
• The U.S. government has also raised the amount of money Cuban-Americans are allowed to send to back to relatives living in Cuba from $2,000 to $8,000 per year.
• The U.S. will also expand sales and exports from the U.S. to Cuba, including building materials for private residential construction, and agricultural equipment for small farmers. These measures, the White House says, will help improve the living standards of Cubans by affording them access to goods at lower prices.
• Financial transactions between U.S. and Cuban institutions will now be allowed.
• The U.S. will also review Cuba’s designation as a State Sponsor of Terrorism.