US allows more flight paths to Cuba in latest lifting of restriction


The Biden administration announced a plan in May to lift Trump-era restrictions on Cuba in a bid to rejoin.

The administration of US President Joe Biden has allowed more flight routes from the US to Cuba, lifting restrictions put in place under former President Donald Trump.

Restrictions lifted by the U.S. Department of Transportation on Wednesday lifted a ban on U.S. airlines and charter flights to major cities outside Havana, including Camaguey, Cayo Coco, Cayo Largo, Cienfuegos, Manzanillo, Matanzas and Santiago de Cuba.

The Biden administration had announced a plan in May to lift a series of restrictions imposed under Trump, who had sought to reverse the efforts of former President Barack Obama, under whom Biden served as vice president, to to normalize relations between Washington and Havana in what was called the “Cuban thaw”.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Wednesday that the lifting of the flight restrictions was “in support of the Cuban people and in the interests of the foreign policy of the United States.”

It remained unclear Thursday whether any commercial airlines planned to fly to the newly authorized locations.

Relations between the US and Cuba deteriorated rapidly after the Cuban Revolution of 1959, after which the US repeatedly attempted to overthrow the communist government led by Fidel Castro, while continuously tightening a series of sanctions against Havana.

Relations reached an all-time low when the Soviet Union sent ballistic missiles to Cuba during the Cuban Missile Crisis, resulting in a stalemate widely regarded as the closest thing to nuclear war during the decades-long Cold War.

The US has imposed a trade embargo on almost all exports from Cuba since 1962.

In 2014, Obama announced with then-Cuban leader Raul Castro that the process to normalize relations had begun.

The detente included the lifting of travel restrictions, family remittances and US banks’ access to Cuba’s financial systems.

When he took office in 2016, Trump sought to reverse many of the efforts by imposing a series of restrictions, including curbing visa processing, restricting money transfers, scaling back flights, and increasing barriers to U.S. citizens seeking to enter Cuba. traveling for something other than family visits.

Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo cited as justifications Cuba’s continued shelter to American refugees, its refusal to extradite a clique of Colombian guerrilla commanders and its support for Venezuelan leader Nicolas Maduro.

On the campaign trail in 2020, Biden promised to reconnect with Cuba, though the promise was complicated by a crackdown on protesters in the island nation in July 2021, which led to more US sanctions.

The restrictions lifted so far do not go as far as the Obama-era thaw and do not restore all previously allowed categories for US citizens to travel to the island.

Among the measures announced in May, the State Department said the US would lift the limit on family remittances, previously set at $1,000 per quarter, and allow donations to non-family members.

The government also announced plans to expand consular services and reintroduce the Cuban Parole family reunification program, which previously provided a legal avenue for family reunification in the US.

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