(Jose Marti Airport. Photographed by Estevan Oriol for East of Havana)
Behold! President Barack Obama has eased travel restrictions to Cuba with a policy change signed into law this month. The few Florida travel agents that booked Cuban flights now have phones ringing off the hook. Some agents claim the demand is so big that they are increasing seat capacity with larger planes in the summer. Maria Aral, president of ABC Charters out of Orlando might also add a sixth day of flights in addition to her five days a week flight schedule from Miami to Havana.
Under the new policy, Cubans can visit extended-family members 1 time a year. Previously, Mr. Bush limited visits to family member once every three years (and only to see immediate relatives). The U.S. government also will consider humanitarian visa requests.
This move would have been intolerable for Cuban-Americans just a few years ago, but the tide is turning among the younger Cuban generation in Miami. Exit Polls from the November elections in Miami-Dade County show that 57 percent of Cuban-Americans support the embargo. In 2004, it was 64 percent.
NEW POLICY POINTS:
• What changed: A new provision signed into law by President Barack Obama last week effectively rolls back rules on travel to Cuba to what they were before restrictive Bush administration amendments were put in place in 2004.
• Who can travel: People living in the U.S. can now visit relatives in Cuba once every 12 months. In the past, travelers were only allowed to visit parents, spouses or children. The definition of relatives was expanded to include “any individual related to the traveler by blood, marriage, or adoption who is no more than three generations removed from the traveler or from a common ancestor with the traveler.” Other licenses may be issued on a case-by-case basis.
Visitors can now spend up to $179 per day, rather than the $50 per day that had been in effect. Government officials, journalists and researchers are still allowed to travel to Cuba. New regulations are being worked out to permit travel for those engaged in the marketing and sale of agricultural and medical goods.
• More details: Travelers to Cuba must make arrangements through a travel agency authorized by the U.S. government.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control
For more homework on the new policy, go to: US DEPT OF TREASURY.