WASHINGTON: US President Joe Biden's administration has announced that it was lifting some sanctions on Cuba, making it easier for families separated between the two countries to reunite and creating a more conducive business environment for Cuban entrepreneurs.
In a statement, State Department Spokesman Ned Price said that the administration "will reinstate the Cuban Family Reunification Parole (CFRP) Program and further increase consular services and visa processing, making it possible for more Cubans to join their families in the United States via regular migration channels".
The CFRP allows up to 20,000 US immigration visas to be issued to Cuban nationals annually. However, the CFRP processing has been suspended since 2017 due to the significant personnel drawdown at the US Embassy in Cuba ordered at the time by former President Donald Trump's administration, citing security reasons. As a result, the US Citizenship and Immigration Services has not issued invitations since September 2016.
Price also said in the statement that the administration will "make it easier for families to visit their relatives in Cuba and for authorized US travellers to engage with the Cuban people, attend meetings, and conduct research".
Washington will also support "greater access to US Internet services, applications, and e-commerce platforms", and support "new avenues for electronic payments and for US business activities with independent Cuban entrepreneurs, including through increased access to microfinance and training", he was quoted as saying in the statement.
Responding to the announcement, Cuba's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said it was "one limited step in the right direction".
Cuba has endured decades-long US embargo. Cuba and the US re-established full diplomatic relations for the first time in 54 years under the administration of Barack Obama in 2015. Bilateral relations, however, vastly deteriorated after the Trump administration banned US flights to Cuban cities except for Havana; barred American cruise ships and yachts from visiting the Caribbean nation; and limited remittances that Cuban-Americans send to their families on the island.
Biden has made reversing the Trump-era restrictive policies toward Cuba his campaign promise, only to meet with conflicting pressures from Congress. Republican lawmakers of Cuban descent have criticized him for the rapprochement while some Democrats scolded him for failing to live up to his commitments. IANS