Cuba says Obama leaves "intact blockade" despite easing measures

12:39, January 16, 2011      

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Cuba said on Saturday the easing of restriction on travel and remittances to the island by the United States were inadequate, because they "keep intact the economic, financial and trade blockade."

The United States on Friday eased restrictions on visas, remittances and travel under its full embargo on Cuba.

"President Barack Obama believes that these measures, combined with continuation of the embargo, are important steps to achieve a widely shared goal of a Cuba respecting the basic rights of all its citizens," according to a White House statement.

"With these measures the blockade is left intact and Washington's policy is not substantially changed, however the measures to ease the blockade reflect the consensus of the majority of the U.S people's demand for a change of policy toward the island," the official website www.cubadebate.cu said.

It called the easing of restrictions a blow for the new chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Cuban-born Republican Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.

"The decision is the first defeat for Ros-Lehtinen, who assumed her post in Congress promising to toughen policies against the island," the website said.

Cuban leader Raul Castro has not issued any statement so far on the regulations.

After the new easing, any American citizen can send remittances to non-family members in Cuba to support private economic activity, with the limitation that they can not go to senior Cuban government officials or top members of the ruling Communist Party.

The measures restore rules in place before the Bush administration, because travels and remittances to Cuba were restricted substantially under former President George W. Bush (2001-2009).

The White House said the steps were aimed at developing "people to people" contacts that allowed the interchange of academics, students and church groups.

On the expansion of airports offering flights to and from Cuba, Cubadebate said that "the scheduled flights are only licensed charter flights, so there is no reciprocity for the Cuban companies to travel to the United States."

Shortly after taking office, Obama announced in April 2009 an initial easing of the U.S. travels and remittances to Cuba. But the bilateral relations were affected by the arrest on the island in December 2009 of U.S. contractor Alan Gross, accused by Cuba of spying, though the local authorities have not filed formal charges yet.

Source: Xinhua
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