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U.S. follows Costa Rica, El Salvador along bridge to Cuba

April 3, 2009

Making another stride toward improved U.S.-Cuba relations, President Barack Obama announced a series of changes to U.S. foreign policy that will ultimately lift travel restrictions for family members flying to the island and improve communication between residents.

Following up on a promise he made while on the campaign trail in the summer and fall of 2008, Obama has directed the secretaries of state, treasury, and commerce to relax restrictions leveled against Cuba. However, he didn´t go as far as to lift the trade embargo.

The directive allows U.S. telecommunications network providers to establish fiber-optic cable and satellite facilities, eases rules against family travel to and from Cuba, and removes restrictions on money that can be sent to Cuban family members.

“Cuban American connections to family in Cuba are not only a basic right in humanitarian terms, but also our best tool for helping to foster the beginnings of grassroots democracy on the island,” read a press release issued by the Obama administration on Monday. “There are no better ambassadors for freedom than Cuban Americans.” 

The move comes at a time when countries in Central America are renewing relationships with Cuba.

Newly elected Salvadoran President Mauricio Funes suggested he would reconnect with Cuba within days of taking office.

And in late March, President Oscar Arias announced that Costa Rica would also establish diplomatic ties with Cuba, a decision he told reporters that he arrived at “carefully” and “responsibly.”

In a press release, Arias said, “The hour of direct and open dialogue, official and normal relations, has arrived,” Arias said. Reconnecting with Cuba will “permit us to address our agreements and disagreements speaking head-on and with sincerity.”

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