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Obama Administration Plans to Sidestep Congress on Cuba Travel

Obama Administration Plans to Sidestep Congress on Cuba Travel
Aug 18, 2015, 12:04 PM ET
BY JIM AVILA and SERENA MARSHALL
SERENA MARSHALL More From Serena »

Travel to Cuba could soon be nearly as easy as travel to any other part
of the world.

The Obama administration plans to unilaterally ease the travel
restrictions to Cuba, sources told ABC News.

The new measures would bypass limits on travel imposed by Congress by
changing regulations at the executive level.

Talks are already underway between the Federal Aviation Administration
and Cuban aviation authorities to resume regularly scheduled non-charter
or commercial flights between the two countries.

And ABC News has learned that the Treasury Department is now considering
new regulations that would allow all Americans to travel to Cuba as
individuals and not in tour groups or with other third-party arrangers.

These two changes are being developed separately by the two U.S.
government agencies but, when complete, would allow Americans to book
tickets to the island nation without going by charter. Those are now the
only flights from the United States to Cuba because of restrictions by
the embargo.

While no specific timetable exists for the aviation agreement, it could
come as soon as the end of the year.

Americans going to Cuba would still have to fall into one of the 12
pre-approved licenses to travel, but would merely attest to compliance
on-line or at the airport as they buy a ticket. No special visa would be
required.

ABC News has also learned Obama plans to loosen credit to Cuba so the
country, which has little hard currency, can buy U.S. goods, especially
agriculture. Right now it’s legal to sell food to Cuba but they have to
pay cash.

The president also plans on unilaterally giving banks cover to allow use
of credit cards, which already is supposed to be happening but is not
because banks have been cautious.

While American Express and MasterCard announced they would allow their
cards to be used on the island, no Cuban bank has authorization, meaning
those traveling from America must still pay in cash.

A bill was introduced in Congress earlier this year to lift the travel
embargo but has yet to move through committee.

Secretary of State John Kerry told ABC News last week in Havana he’d
urge Americans to take advantage of travel exemptions currently
available, saying it is for “anybody’s benefit.”

“There is no question that the administration decision to do this is
based on our notion that Americans getting to know Cubans and Cubans
getting to know Americans,” Kerry added. “And really beginning to travel
more and to be engaged is the way in fact that a transformation is going
to be infected. And so if people want to be a part of that or not it is
up to them. But we certainly think it is a fascinating time here and a
fascinating time to be engaged.”

All of the changes are part of the Obama administrations goal to affect
change in Cuba through contact with Americans.

Source: Obama Administration Plans to Sidestep Congress on Cuba Travel –
ABC News –
http://abcnews.go.com/News/obama-administration-plans-sidestep-congress-cuba-travel/story?id=33156195

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