Cuba stops U.S. mail in new hiccup in relations
HAVANA (Reuters) - Cuba has suspended postal deliveries to the United States, its mail firm said on Friday, in a step backward for ties between neighboring countries that have made cautious progress in repairing a Cold War-era rift.
Mail services across the 90 miles of sea that separates the Caribbean island from the coast of Florida, where more than 1 million people of Cuban origin live, were suspended in 1963 following Cuba's communist revolution.
Talks between the government of U.S. President Barack Obama and Cuba's communist leadership led to the resumption of deliveries via third countries such as Mexico and Canada in 2009. Direct deliveries were under discussion.
"Until further notice Cuban post offices cannot keep accepting any type of mail for the United States," the Cuban postal company said in a statement read on state TV. It apologized to customers for the inconvenience.
The suspension follows a slowdown in services after the United States in November applied stricter anti-terrorism measures to mail deliveries from many countries including Cuba. At that time Washington requested that parcels not be sent for one month.
As a result of the security measures, the Cuban postal company said, large numbers of letters and parcels have been refused entry into the United States and returned to Cuba via third countries' airlines. That has likely made the service more costly.
A spokesman at the U.S. Postal Service said the organization was aware the security measures were causing problems for deliveries from several countries and said there were no specific restrictions on Cuba.
"The U.S. Postal Service continues to accept mail, letters and packages arriving to the United States" from Cuba, said spokesman Dave Lewin.
Obama's decision to renew postal services to and from Cuba was seen as a move toward repairing ties between the countries. Last week, Washington announced it was easing rules restricting travel by U.S. citizens to Cuba but stopped short of allowing normal tourism to the island.
Under President Raul Castro, who took over from his brother Fidel in 2009, Cuba has freed dozens of political prisoners and begun modest reforms to revitalize the economy.
A five-decade U.S. trade embargo on the nation of 11 million people is still mostly intact, but Obama has authorized more cash remittances to the island.
(Reporting by Nelson Acosta; Writing by Frank Jack Daniel; Editing by Todd Eastham)
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