Ease on Cuba Travel Restrictions Benefits Academia

cuba

President Obama recently announced that he United States will ease its historical embargo on Cuba, including travel restrictions, making island access easier for those who have an officially sanctioned reason.

Daniel Weiner, vice provost for the University of Connecticut’s Office of Global Affairs, is considering establishing a connection with the country.

“This will ease access to Cuba and allow faculty to travel back and forth more freely,” Weiner said. “I think this is good news, and I think it’s well overdue.”

The embargo would still ban American tourists from the visiting the country unless they receive approval from the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC).  The department issues a license allowing money to spent while in Cuba.

However, the policy change would allow academics and students to travel to the country without permission, as well as freelance journalists, college sports teams and Little Leaguers, writes Ana Radelat for The CT Mirror.

This year, Yale’s Glee Club needed to acquire special permission to sing in Cuba from the OFAC.  That will no longer be necessary.

“The policy changes make it easier for Americans to provide business training for private Cuban businesses and small farmers and provide other support for the growth of Cuba’s nascent private sector,” the White House said in a statement.

Universities have been sending students to Cuba ever since Obama expanded on the “people-to-people” initiative aimed toward bringing Cubans and Americans together in an effort to weaken the hold of the communist government.  The initiative was first introduced by former President Bill Clinton, but was eliminated by former President George Bush, ending the ability of schools to use it for academic travels.

The previous expansion allowed people such as young athletes and Americans interested in cultural tours of the country to visit the country through the special license from the OFAC.  The new rules now allow these travelers to visit the country under a “general license,” which offers visitors the ability to go back and forth without needing to obtain the OFAC license first.

People who can now receive a general license include those doing academic research, educational exchanges, and participants of academic workshops, among others.

In addition, the new rules allow US travelers to use credit cards while in the country, making travel between the two countries easier.  Previously, visitors needed to carry cash while in Cuba.

“While these new policies will not bring change overnight, I am optimistic that this new engagement and dialogue is more likely to succeed than our hardline, isolationist policies of the last 50 years,” said Murphy, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.