The US government is planning to further ease restrictions on Americans travelling to Cuba. Officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the announcement could be made as early as next week but no final decision has been made yet.
The government last year relaxed a travel ban to allow Cuban-Americans with relatives on the island to make visits. The new move would open the way for “people-to-people” diplomacy by making it easier for students, academics, religious organizations, cultural groups, sports teams and others to make visits.
Americans seeking to travel to Cuba at present face tough penalties, with the Treasury Department prosecuting anyone spending dollars in Cuba, which effectively amounts to a travel ban. Special permission is required to make a trip.
The White House yesterday declined to confirm or deny the news.
“We will continue to pursue policies that advance the US national interest and support the Cuban people’s desire to freely determine their country’s future,” Mike Hammer, a national security council spokesman, said.
The environment for rapprochement has been helped by the Cuban government’s decision to release political prisoners. Three more Cuban dissidents arrived in Madrid on Tuesday after being released.
Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos predicted last month that the release of all political prisoners would lead to the eventual lifting of the US embargo on Cuba.
Links with Cuba have long been held up because of vociferous lobbying by Cuban exiles in and around Miami, but there is less hostility on the part of the younger generation of Cuban exiles.
Anya Landau French, director of the US-Cuba policy initiative at the New America Foundation think tank, believes the changes are imminent and favors a lifting of the travel ban.
“It’s hard to judge how positive a change this signals until we have a chance to see its scope. If it’s narrow, that shows that this administration is still playing it too safe on Cuba, a low-risk, low-hanging fruit in foreign policy terms,” Landau French said.
She hopes that the changes will be broader.
The changes could see people such as academic researchers, at present only allowed short visits, being allowed to stay on the island for two years. More flights — at present restricted to Los Angeles, New York and Miami — are also envisaged.
US President Barack Obama can make changes to the categories allowed to travel but a total lifting of the ban can only be done by Congress.
NASA scientists on Friday presented striking early images from the picture-perfect landing of the Mars rover Perseverance, including a selfie of the six-wheeled vehicle dangling just above the surface of the Red Planet moments before touchdown. The color photograph, likely to become an instant classic among memorable images from the history of spaceflight, was snapped by a camera mounted on the rocket-powered “sky crane” descent-stage just above the rover as the car-sized space vehicle was being lowered on Thursday to Martian soil. The image was unveiled by mission managers during an online news briefing Webcast from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) near
A rogue overgrown sheep found roaming through regional Australia has been shorn of his 35kg fleece — a weight even greater than that of the famous New Zealand sheep Shrek, who was captured in 2005 after six years on the loose. The merino ram, dubbed Baarack by rescuers, was discovered wandering alone with an extraordinarily overgrown wool coat, and was promptly shorn to save his life. Kyle Behrend, from the Edgar’s Mission farm sanctuary, said that it appeared Baarack was “once an owned sheep” who had escaped. Merino sheep do not shed their fleece and need to be shorn at least annually, as
Three years after a deadly virus struck India’s endangered Asiatic lions in their last remaining natural habitat, conservationists are hunting for new homes to help booming prides roam free. The majestic big cats, slightly smaller than their African cousins and with a fold of skin along their bellies, were once found widely across southwest Asia. Hunting and human encroachment saw the population plunge to just 20 by 1913, and the lions are now found only in a wildlife sanctuary in India’s western Gujarat State. Following years of concerted government efforts, the lion population in Gir National Park has swelled to nearly 700, according
DMZ SWIM: Over more than three hours, South Korean surveillance cameras caught him eight times and audible alarms sounded twice, but border guards did not notice A North Korean defector wore a diving suit and fins during a daring six-hour swim around one of the world’s most fortified borders and was only caught after apparently falling asleep, a Seoul official said. South Korean forces did not spot the man’s audacious exploit, despite his appearance several times on surveillance cameras after he landed and triggered alarms, drawing heavy criticism from media and opposition lawmakers. Even after his presence was noticed, the man — who used diving gear to make his way by sea around the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) that divides the Korean Peninsula — was not caught for another