(Politico) – The White House announced Friday that it is relaxing additional restrictions on Cuba regarding travel, commerce and investment, stemming from President Barack Obama’s call to ease Cuban sanctions last December.
The regulatory changes include making it easier to travel to the Caribbean country, expanding general licenses for telecommunications and Internet-based services, and allowing certain people and businesses to set up shop in the country and open bank accounts.
The Monday start date for the new rules coincides with Pope Francis’s visit to the island, just a day before he arrives in the United States. The White House has credited the pontiff with driving the initial thawing of relations in December, and Francis is seen as a key ally in their effort to persuade Congress to further lift sanctions.
“Today’s announcement underscores the Administration’s commitment to promote constructive change for the Cuban people,” Treasury Secretary Jack Lew said in a statement. “A stronger, more open U.S.-Cuba relationship has the potential to create economic opportunities for both Americans and Cubans alike. By further easing these sanctions, the United States is helping to support the Cuban people in their effort to achieve the political and economic freedom necessary to build a democratic, prosperous, and stable Cuba.”