HAVANA (Reuters) - Cuba said on Sunday that U.S. President Barack Obama’s move to relax more U.S. travel restrictions to the island was a positive step but did little to soften the decades-old trade embargo.
Obama issued an executive order on Friday loosening limits on U.S. travel and money remittances to the communist-led Caribbean nation, extending his efforts to reach out to its people.
Obama lifted virtually all restrictions on Cuban-Americans visiting their homeland and sending money to relatives in 2009.
“Although the measures are positive ... they have a very limited reach and do not change U.S. policy against Cuba,” a Foreign Ministry statement said.
The government, in its first official statement on the measures, credited public pressure within the United States for the decision and charged that Obama, like his predecessors, sought to dominate the country.
“It shows a recognition of the failure of U.S. policy against Cuba and that it is looking for new ways to reach its historic objectives of dominating our people,” the statement said.
The measures restore rules in place before former President George W. Bush’s administration that allowed religious, academic and other nongovernmental organization travel, but stop short of lifting a ban on tourist travel by Americans to the island.
The White House says the steps are aimed at developing “people-to-people” contacts by allowing more travel for college professors and students, artists and church groups. The regulatory changes also allow all U.S. international airports to apply to service licensed charter flights to Cuba.
They also allow any U.S. person to send remittances (up to $500 a quarter) to non-family members in Cuba to support private economic activity, with the limitation that they cannot go to senior Cuban government officials or top members of the ruling Communist Party. (Reporting by Marc Frank; Editing by Peter Cooney)