The American contractor, who has been held in Cuba on espionage charges for five years, is finally headed home. (News, USA TODAY)
President Obama is announcing a major overhaul of U.S.- Cuba relations, the biggest shift in the two nations’ diplomatic posture since the severing of ties in 1961.
Here are five key steps in Obama’s announcement, from a White House summary:
“The President has instructed the Secretary of State to immediately initiate discussions with Cuba on the re-establishment of diplomatic relations with Cuba, which were severed in January 1961.
“In the coming months, we will re-establish an embassy in Havana and carry out high-level exchanges and visits between our two governments as part of the normalization process.”
EXPANDED TRAVEL AND TRADE
The administration is broadening use of existing categories of allowable travel, including for family visits, professional meetings and “support for the Cuban people.” The announcement also includes step to increase commercial flights to Cuba.
The administration is also increasing commercial trade in both directions. “Licensed U.S. travelers to Cuba will be authorized to import $400 worth of goods from Cuba, of which no more than $100 can consist of tobacco products and alcohol combined.
“Items that will be authorized for export include certain building materials for private residential construction, goods for use by private sector Cuban entrepreneurs, and agricultural equipment for small farmers.”
For families in the U.S. sending cash back to Cuba, “remittance levels will be raised from $500 to $2,000 per quarter for general donative remittances to Cuban nationals (except to certain officials of the government or the Communist party); and donative remittances for humanitarian projects, support for the Cuban people, and support for the development of private businesses in Cuba will no longer require a specific license.”
EXPANDING CUBAN INTERNET
In order to increase the ability of Cubans to access the Internet, “The commercial export of certain items that will contribute to the ability of the Cuban people to communicate with people in the United States and the rest of the world will be authorized. This will include the commercial sale of certain consumer communications devices, related software, applications, hardware, and services, and items for the establishment and update of communications-related systems.”
Cuba has been listed as a “state sponsor of terrorism” since 1982. Obama’s action directs the secretary of State to “immediately launch” a review of that status and to “provide a report to the President within six months regarding Cuba’s support for international terrorism.”
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