Cuban-American lawmakers criticise Obama's US-Cuba travel restriction plans

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Washington, Jan 16 (ANI): American Republican lawmakers of Cuban descent have criticised President Barack Obama's plans to ease US citizens' travel restrictions to Cuba that would allow educational and religious groups to visit the communist country, saying that the changes would benefit the Castro regime rather than average citizens.

Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., Senators Marco Rubio, R-Florida, and Robert Menendez, D-New Jersey, expressed their disappointment with Obama's easing of Cuba travel restrictions.

"Loosening these regulations will not help foster a pro-democracy environment in Cuba. These changes will not aid in ushering in respect for human rights. And they certainly will not help the Cuban people free themselves from the tyranny that engulfs them," Fox News quoted Lehtinen, chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, as saying.

"These changes undermine U.S. foreign policy and security objectives and will bring economic benefits to the Cuban regime," she added.

A White House statement issued on Friday said 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 plan would also enable any American to send around 500 dollars every three months to Cuban citizens who are not part of the Castro administration and are not members of the Communist Party.

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, the report said.

On Friday, one Florida airport had already taken steps to offer service to Cuba.

However, the Senate's two Cuban-American members voiced strong opposition.

"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," Republican Senator Rubio said in a statement.

Meanwhile, Democratic Senator Menendez said that he is deeply unhappy with Obama's plans because he thinks it would "extend an economic life line to the Castro regime." (ANI)

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