In December, Barack Obama announced he would normalize relations with Cuba and ease some travel restrictions, but he didn't give a clear timeline for when that would happen.
Well, surprise, the Treasury Department announced today that the new travel rules will go into effect tomorrow.
See also: America's Cuba Ties Transformed
Here are the new rules in a nutshell:
- Travelers will no longer need to obtain a license from the Treasury as long as their trip fits a broad range of categories. However, technically, pure tourism is still forbidden.
- Americans can spend as much money as they want in Cuba each day.
- They'll be able to use their American credit and debit cards to do so.
- Travelers can bring up to $400 worth of merchandise back to the States, including $100 worth of cigars or liquor.
- American airlines and travel agents will be able to provide services to the island without a special license.
- U.S. insurance firms can now sell global health, life, and travel insurance policies to those visiting Cuba.
- American firms can now also sell items such as computers, TV sets, and cell phones directly to Cubans.
- Cuban-Americans can send up to $2,000 per quarter to family members on the island.
- Banks can now transfer remittances without a special license.
- Cuban-Americans in particular are now allowed to return to the Island with $10,000 in cash.
- Journalists and academics can export items to the island deemed necessary for their work.
- U.S. companies can export items such as building materials and agricultural equipment for use in Cuba's private sector.
"We firmly believe that allowing increased travel, commerce, and the flow of information to and from Cuba will allow the United States to better advance our interests and improve the lives of ordinary Cubans," White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said in a statement. "The policy of the past has not worked for over 50 years, and we believe that the best way to support our interests and our values is through openness rather than isolation."
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However, this is not the end of the embargo, just the end of the embargo as we know it. Wider effects of the embargo still remain in place and would need to be repealed by Congress.
Not everyone is pleased.
U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) quickly issued a statement calling the new rules "a windfall for the Castro regime that will be used to fund its repression against Cubans, as well as its activities against U.S. national interests in Latin America and beyond."