Senator: Obama to ease Cuba travel restrictions

Published: Friday, January 14, 2011 at 4:23 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 14, 2011 at 4:33 p.m.

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — President Barack Obama plans to loosen Cuban travel policy to allow students and church groups to go to the communist country, a senator's office said Friday.

The State Department briefed Sen. Bill Nelson and his foreign policy staff on the plans to lift restrictions put in place by President George W. Bush, said the senator's spokesman Dan McLaughlin. McLaughlin said the changes will be made within the next three weeks.

Under the plan, any American will be allowed to send as much as $500 every three months to Cuban citizens who are not part of the Castro administration and are not members of the Communist Party.

Also, more airports will be allowed to offer charter service. Right now, only three airports in Miami, Los Angeles and New York City can offer authorized charters to Cuba. That will be expanded to any international airport with proper customs and immigration facilities as long as a licensed travel agencies asks to run charters from the airport.

Changes Obama made last year already increased Cuban-Americans' ability to visit family and send money to relatives.

The Obama administration had no immediate comment on Nelson's announcement Friday.

The changes are similar to the travel policies under President Bill Clinton.

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