Obama working to ease US-Cuba travel restrictions

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Washington, Jan 15 (ANI): US President Barack Obama is reportedly looking to ease US citizens' travel restrictions to Cuba, allowing educational and religious groups to visit the communist country.

Politico quoted a White House statement as saying that the authorities were working to address the issue for months, but because of political concerns like last year's mid-term polls, the announcement was not made.

"The President believes these actions, combined with the continuation of the embargo, are important steps in reaching the widely shared goal of a Cuba that respects the basic rights of all its citizens," the statement added.

Many people familiar with the issue have said that the administration was prepared to release the new policy last month, but failed to do so because of the Republicans' disapproval into the matter.

Meanwhile, two Cuban-American senators condemned the move by the Obama administration.

Florida Senator Marco Rubio, a Republican who warned last week that the Obama administration was sending out "trial balloons" to new members about its intention to ease travel restrictions, condemned the administration's actions as "unthinkable."

"I strongly oppose any new changes that weaken U.S. policy towards Cuba. I was opposed to the changes that have already been made by this administration and I oppose these new changes," Rubio said in a statement.

I believe that what does need to change are the Cuban regime's repressive policies towards the independent press and labor unions, its imprisonment of political prisoners and constant harassment of citizens with dissenting views, and its refusal to allow free multi-party elections," he added.

Democrat Robert Menendez of New Jersey called the move a "gift to the Castro brothers," which would provide Cuba with the "additional resources it needs to sustain its failing economy, while ordinary Cubans continue to struggle under the weight of more than 50 years of economic and political oppression."

In 2009, Obama had eased travel restrictions for family members to Cuba and increased the amount that family members could send to relatives in the country after these restrictions had been tightened during the Bush administration, the report said.

These new rules also allow chartered flights into U.S. airports, like it used to be during President Bill Clinton's tenure.

Besides, it would further allow travel licenses to be issued for non-academic "clinics and workshops" for Cubans, it added. (ANI)

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