Cuban-American relations reached a high this week when the Commerce and Treasury Departments loosened regulatory mechanisms to enforce the embargo. Ahead of President Obama’s historic visit to Cuba, the first for an American president in 88 years, on March 20, the administration made significant changes to help open up the country. These changes will largely affect American companies doing business in Cuba and tourists wanting to travel there.
Among other changes, the revised regulations will include the following:
- U.S. citizens will be authorized to travel to Cuba for individual people-to-people educational travel.
- U.S. banking institutions will be authorized to process U-turn transactions in which Cuba or a Cuban national has an interest.
- U.S. banking institutions will be authorized to process U.S. dollar monetary instruments, including cash and travelers’ checks, presented indirectly by Cuban financial institutions.
- U.S. banking institutions will be authorized to open and maintain bank accounts in the United States for Cuban nationals in Cuba.
- The U.S. government will enable or facilitate exports from Cuba of items produced by the Cuban private sector.
While the Commerce and Treasury Departments can open up banking and financial regulations, ultimately it is up to Congress to lift the Cuba embargo entirely.