WASHINGTON ( Associated Press) — The administration of President Joe Biden announced Monday that it will increase flights to Cuba and lift restrictions imposed by former President Donald Trump on remittances that immigrants can send to the island.
The State Department indicated in a statement that it will withdraw the current limit of $1,000 per quarter on family remittances and allow non-family remittances, which will provide support to independent Cuban entrepreneurs. Washington will also allow scheduled and charter flights to places other than Havana, the agency said.
The government also said it will take steps to reinstate the Cuban Family Reunification Permit Program and increase consular services and visa processing.
“With these measures, we intend to support the aspirations of freedom and greater economic opportunities of Cubans so that they can lead successful lives in their country,” added the State Department. “We continue to call on the Cuban government to immediately release political prisoners, respect the fundamental freedoms of the Cuban people and allow them to determine their own future.”
The policy change was announced following a review that began shortly after a series of widespread protests on the island last July.
Trump had increased sanctions on Cuba, including the cancellation of permits to send remittances and sanctions against oil tankers headed for the island.
These measures and the pandemic contributed to an economic crisis in the Caribbean country, where the population suffers from shortages of basic products, blackouts and rationing.
The economic situation led thousands of people to take to the streets across the country on July 11, 2021, in what were the largest such protests in several decades. Many were frustrated with high prices and low wages, and also with the socialist government. Non-governmental organizations have reported that more than 1,400 arrests were made during the demonstrations and that 500 people were sentenced to up to 20 years in prison for vandalism or sedition.
Washington and Havana have started some talks in recent weeks, amid a sharp increase in Cubans trying to immigrate illegally to the United States.
In the first week of April, the US embassy in Havana resumed processing visas for Cubans, albeit on a limited basis, more than four years after ending consular services on the island due to the estrangement in relations.
Rodríguez reported from Havana.