US further eases Cuba restrictions ahead of Obama visit

WASHINGTON, DC, USA – The United States further eased travel and trade restrictions with Cuba Tuesday, March 15, just days before a historic visit to the communist-ruled island by President Barack Obama. 

The US Treasury said the rule changes will make it easier for Americans to travel to the island for "educational" purposes, for US banks to provide more services in the Caribbean country, and for US businesses to work more freely there.

The various steps were mostly minor but add up to the continuing erosion of Congress-mandated restrictions on interactions with Cuba and Cubans as the Obama administration seeks to end the decades-old embargo on the country.

"Today's steps build on the actions of the last 15 months as we continue to break down economic barriers, empower the Cuban people and advance their financial freedoms, and chart a new course in US-Cuba relations," said Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew in a statement.

Obama will visit Cuba on March 21-22 in a symbolically charged capstone to the rapprochement that he and President Raul Castro announced in December 2014.

From the 1960s until a just over a year ago Americans were mostly banned from tourist visits, trade and investment with the island barely 90 miles (145 kilometers) south of Florida. – Rappler.com