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Congress votes to ease Cuba travel restrictions

Congress votes to ease Cuba travel restrictions

Congress has voted to lift limits that President George W. Bush tightened on Cuban-Americans wanting to visit relatives in Cuba.
U.S. citizens with family in Cuba will be able to visit the island nation more often and stay as long as they like under legislation passed by Congress.
The measures were included in a $410 billion spending bill to fund government operations for the remainder of the fiscal year.
The spending bill was approved by the Senate Tuesday night. It was passed by the House of Representatives last month.
Changes in rules for family travel to Cuba come amid debate on whether the U.S. should lift its trade embargo against Cuba.
Under the bill, which President Barack Obama is expected to sign Wednesday, Cuban-Americans could travel to Cuba once a year to visit relatives and stay for an unlimited duration. Existing rules limit family visits to once every three years for no more than 14 days at a time.
The bill would also ease financing rules for imports of food and medicine into Cuba. That provision prompted protests by lawmakers who said it would reward a brutal dictatorship.
In letters released on Tuesday, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner assured lawmakers that the bill would not substantially change the rules governing agricultural sales.
The U.S. embargo on other exports to Cuba remains in place, as do restrictions on most travel.
Geithner wrote that the administration is "currently reviewing United States policy toward Cuba to determine the best way to foster democratic change in Cuba and improve the lives of the Cuban people."
President George W. Bush imposed the rules in 2004 that limited travel to just two weeks every three years and confined visits to immediate family members.
Obama, during last year's campaign, promised to allow Cuban-Americans to visit their families on the island more frequently.


Updated : 2021-03-06 11:15 GMT+08:00