U.S. approves eight more airports for Cuba flights

HAVANA Tue Mar 8, 2011 9:36pm EST

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HAVANA (Reuters) - The government has given permission to eight more airports to offer direct charter flights to and from Cuba in the latest small opening in the 49-year-long trade embargo against the communist island.

Customs and Border Protection said on Tuesday Cuba flights would now be allowed from airports in Atlanta, Baltimore, Dallas/Fort Worth, New Orleans, Chicago, Pittsburgh, Tampa and San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Previously, Cuba flights could be flown only from Miami, New York and Los Angeles. It was not yet known when flights would begin from the new cities.

President Barack Obama said in January Cuba charter service would be expanded. At the same time, he announced a loosening of restrictions for some groups on U.S. travel to Cuba.

The embargo, imposed since 1962 with the aim of toppling the communist government put in place after a 1959 revolution, prevents most Americans from going to Cuba. Only charter flights, not regular air service, are allowed to operate on U.S.-Cuba routes.

Obama has said he wants to recast U.S.-Cuba relations. He previously removed limits on Cuban American travel to the island located 90 miles from Florida and on the sending of remittances.

Cuban Americans have flooded into the country, packing the flights available and making Americans among the top nationalities numerically to visit Cuba.

Under Obama and President Raul Castro, the longtime ideological foes also have initiated talks on migration issues and the possible resumption of direct mail service.

Some Cuban American leaders and groups have opposed Obama's measures, saying they help the Cuban government that was run by Fidel Castro for 49 years before his younger brother Raul Castro succeeded him in 2008.

Progress in the long-hostile relations came to a halt in December 2009 when Cuba arrested U.S. aid contractor Alan Gross for working in a U.S.-funded program to promote political change on the island.

The approval of the new airports comes as a Cuban court decides Gross's fate following a two-day trial last week for what prosecutors said was his involvement in "subversive projects" to "defeat the Revolution."

He faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted.

(Reporting by Jeff Franks; Editing by Will Dunham)

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Comments (8)
dencal26 wrote:
This is no shock. Its the natural progression of the Dem party into the hands of communism. Joe McCarthy was right. The Venona transcripts released in 1995 and former KGB documents exonerate Joe. JFK fought to keep Communist out of the western hemisphere. By the 1980s Dems were passing laws ( Boland Amendment) to aid and protect Communist Dictator Dan Ortega in Iran Contra. Simply disgraceful.

Mar 09, 2011 7:03am EST  --  Report as abuse
It does seem slightly, well, insane to maintain such a hard line on Cuba while administration after administration (Republican and Democrat alike) bows down to our Communist Chinese overlords.

People on the right love to criticize Obama for opening up to Cuba because it satisfies their fantasy that he’s a Communist double agent, but where were these people when the Bush administration was spending the country into oblivion and begging China to pick up the slack?

Either we’re ok dealing with Communist countries or we’re not, you can’t have it both ways. Personally, I think the 50s are over and our embargo of Cuba only harms us (after a few decades I’m pretty sure Cuba has shown it is resistant to this particular form of sanction).

Mar 09, 2011 8:29am EST  --  Report as abuse
oldschool wrote:
Obviously the Cuban embargo has been a complete failure – the Castro government is almost 50 years old. Embargoes are always stupid; they only hurt the ordinary citizens. Those in power are never affected. The Cuban embargo should have been lifted years ago.

Mar 09, 2011 10:57am EST  --  Report as abuse
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