Friday, October 14, 2016

Obama Lifts Restrictions On Cuban Rum, Cigars

Americans traveling to Cuba will be allowed to bring home more of the communist-ruled island's coveted cigars and rum under new measures announced by the U.S. government on Friday to further ease trade, travel and financial restrictions that have been in place for decades.

The steps are part of President Barack Obama's effort to make his historic opening to Cuba "irreversible" by the time he leaves office in January.

The latest in a series of new rules since the two former Cold War foes began normalizing relations in 2014 will allow Cubans to buy certain U.S. consumer goods online, open the door to Cuban pharmaceutical companies to do business in the United States and let Cubans and Americans engage in joint medical research.

For American travelers, the biggest change is the removal of limits on the amount of rum and cigars they can pack in their luggage, strictly for personal use. The administration partially lifted the ban in 2015, allowing Americans to bring back $100 in alcohol and tobacco products. Now they can return with as much as they want as long as they pay duties and taxes.

"You can now celebrate with Cuban rum and Cuban cigars," U.S. National Security Adviser Susan Rice quipped as she laid out the policy changes in a speech to a Washington think tank.

U.S. law still bans general tourism to Cuba, but the administration has used previous regulatory packages to make it easier for Americans to visit the island under 12 officially authorized categories.

The latest measures are part of an executive order on Cuba through which Obama seeks to sidestep the Republican-controlled Congress, which has resisted his call to lift Washington's economic embargo after more than 50 years.