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US Eases Restrictions On Travel To Cuba

The US has moved to ease the trade embargo against Cuba and open up the communist island to greater American travel.

The new measures also allow US citizens to start bringing home small amounts of Cuban cigars after more than a half-century ban.

They go into effect on Friday.

The move is part of a thaw between the two nations after five decades of hostility.

It comes just three days after US officials confirmed the release of 53 political prisoners Cuba had promised to free.

President Barack Obama is planning to re-establish diplomatic relations with Cuba.

Only Congress can end the five-decade embargo.

But the set of measures announced on Thursday give permission for Americans to use credit cards in Cuba and US companies to export telephone, computer and Internet technologies.

The goal is to “contribute to the ability of the Cuban people to communicate with people within Cuba, in the United States, and the rest of the world”, according to a Treasury Department fact sheet.

Investments in some small business are permitted.

General tourist travel is still prohibited, but Americans authorised to visit Cuba need no longer apply for special licences.

“Today’s announcement takes us one step closer to replacing out-of-date policies that were not working and puts in place a policy that helps promote political and economic freedom for the Cuban people,” US Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew said in a statement.

The US and Cuba are scheduled to hold migration talks in Havana next week, the next step in their normalisation process.

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