U.S. eases restrictions on Cuba links as Obama visit nears

As the USA continues to loosen the restrictions on Cuba, Rhodes reiterated the Obama administration's stance: "At a certain point, the embargo is, I think, going to be seen as an impediment to what the Cuban people want and what frankly we would want to see transpire going forward in Cuba".

Under the new rules, Cubans will be allowed to open USA bank accounts and authorize those living in the United States to send remittances, the U.S. government said.

"It certainly does address the ability of Cuban athletes who could earn salaries in the United States to do so".

On Tuesday morning, the White House announced it would ease limits on the use of US dollars in trade transactions.

Major League Baseball is negotiating with both the USA and Cuban government to create a legal means for Cuban baseball players to play in the US without having to abandon their country, eliminating the need for some of the world's priciest baseball talent to use human traffickers to get to the major leagues.

Tampa Bay area residents with their hearts set on Cuban travel will be able to do so with a little more ease thanks to a Tuesday announcement from the Obama administration.

"The goal of the president's policy with Cuba is simple: to improve the lives of Cubans and to advance the interests of the United States", he said. Shortly after that, they reopened long-closed embassies, opened flights to the island from the US, and announced a presidential visit to Cuba, the first since 1928 when Calvin Coolidge visited.

The U.S. trade embargo against Cuba, which can only be lifted by Congress, "is an impediment" for fuller economic ties between the countries, White House deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes told reporters on a conference call.

The administration announced Tuesday that Americans can now take "people-to-people" trips to Cuba on their own instead of on expensive group tours.

"Our companies and our people are very interested in taking advantage of new opportunities to engage with and empower the Cuban people", said Rhodes. The changes also allow humanitarian and other entities supporting the Cuban people to establish a presence there, they said.

OFAC says it will also expand the existing authorization for "business presence" (such as a joint venture) to include exporters of goods that are authorized for export or re-export to Cuba or that are exempt, entities providing mail or parcel transmission services or cargo transportation services, and providers of carrier and travel services to facilitate authorized transactions. He also said the Cuban government should let foreign firms hire Cubans directly.

Republican frontrunner Donald Trump said last week the old policy needed to be changed but he would renegotiate with Cuba for a better deal.

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