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Posted August 17, 2010 by publisher in US Embargo

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Rob Sequin | Havana Journal

Cuba watchers have had high expectations in recent days from several reports from unnamed sources close to the Obama Administration who have been leaking bits and pieces of information regarding a number of potential Cuba travel opportunities for all Americans, not just Cuban Americans.

General speaking, this is a summary of the potential announcements expected soon from President Obama:

1. Loosen travel to Cuba restrictions on academic, religious and cultural groups -  the new policy would expand current channels for travel to Cuba, rather than create new ones. Academic, religious and cultural groups can travel to Cuba but under very strict rules. For example, students wanting to study in Cuba are required to stay at least 10 weeks and only accredited universities can qualify for academic visas.

Under the new looser Cuba travel policy, restrictions would be eased so academic institutions, including research and advocacy groups and museums, would be able to qualify for OFAC licenses lasting for as long as two years.

2. Allow flights to Cuba from more cities than the currently permitted three cities of Miami, New York and Los Angeles. As many as 20 cities may be offering direct flights to Cuba.

3. Allow all Americans to send remittances or charitable donations to churches, schools and human rights groups in Cuba.

Note: Several people familiar with the new measures said they could be made public within weeks. Apparently these news Cuba travel policies have been in the planning stages for months and already have been discussed at high level White House meetings.

A New York Times article states: The Obama administration is planning to expand opportunities for Americans to travel to Cuba, the latest step aimed at encouraging more contact between people in both countries, while leaving intact the decades-old embargo against the island’s Communist government, according to Congressional and administration officials.

A Washington Post article quotes a congressional staff member: “These are not revolutionary. They’re not going to cause political blowback. Because we did all this stuff before” under Clinton”.

John McAuliff from the Havana Note writes: Also weighing in with the Administration last week in support of educational travel were fourteen national organizations, including five prominent academic groups: American Association of State Colleges and Universities, American Institute For Foreign Study, CIEE - Council on International Educational Exchange, NAFSA: Association of International Educators, and the Social Science Research Council.

The Associated Press is the most ambitious saying “A decision could be announced before the end of next week. However, the officials cautioned that political considerations could hold up a decision, possibly until after November’s midterm congressional elections.”

From the Latin America Herald Tribune: Obama, who in 2009 liberalized rules for Cuban-Americans’ travel and remittances to the island, flies to Miami Beach this Wednesday to support the candidacy of Greene’s rival in the primaries, Rep. Kendrick Meek, who favors maintaining the economic embargo on Cuba. Greene supports easing of the Embargo while Meek does not.

So, all this seems to add up to a nice big trial balloon and certainly more than just rumor. Perhaps we’ll know as soon as tomorrow.

If you want to be a political activist for your rights to travel to Cuba, contact your representative in Congress while they are on recess and ask for their support or thank them for their courage to stand up to the old Cuban exile machine.

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