The Obama administration plans to lift a ban preventing Cuban-Americans from visiting and sending remittances to their relatives there, according to a published report. The Wall Street Journal, citing a senior administration official, reported the move, seen as the beginning of a new era of openness with the island nation, but did not specify a timeframe. Lifting the family travel ban does not require Congressional approval. Obama does not yet intend to lift the trade embargo, which would require the OK of lawmakers, the paper said. Lawmakers, backed by business and farm groups seeing new opportunities in Cuba, have been trying for years to chip away at the trade and travel bans imposed after Castro took power in Havana in 1959. They have made little headway because of strong political resistance led by Florida's influential Cuban-American community. But the situation has changed in the past year with an ailing Fidel Castro turning political control over to his brother Raul and the election of President Barack Obama, who like other Democratic presidents is more open to increasing nonpolitical contacts with the Cuban people. The administration could take other steps, such as revising rules that have impeded farm and medical sales to Cuba, before a summit of Latin American countries in Trinidad next month. Supporters stressed that Cuba is the only country in the world to which the U.S. bans travel: there are a few exceptions, such as for journalists or humanitarian visits. They said open travel would make Cubans more favorable to American people and ideas.
The list of groups supporting the bill, including the American Farm Bureau, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and associations representing rice, wheat and dairy industries, was indicative of the broader goals of opening up Cuba.