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MIAMI (CBSMiami) — The U.S. Treasury Department is restoring mail service between Cuba and the United States – a first in decades.
Direct mail services between both nations will go into effect starting Wednesday.
That is not the only thing that changed Tuesday. Policy for trade, travel and finance changed as well.
The Obama administration announced people will now be able to travel to Cuba for “people to people” educational trips. This means travelers will not need to book their trip with a tour group to visit Cuba. Travel for touristic reasons is still prohibited.
“The simple basis of our policy is that by loosening these restrictions we are better able to engage the Cuban people, to support them and build bridges between our two countries,” said National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes. “We deeply believe that this is in America’s national interests.”
The U.S. is also lifting limits on the use of American dollars for transactions with Cuba. That includes Cuban nationals who live in the United States and what to get a salary without defecting from the island nation. This would affect those in the sports or entertainment business.
“We did want to find ways consistent with our own interests to facilitate international transactions that make use of the dollar,” said Rhodes.
Cuban nationals will now also be able to apply and receive education grants, scholarships and awards. If they choose, they can also open a U.S. bank account.
“Our companies and our people are very interested in taking advantage of new opportunities to engage with and empower the Cuban people,” said Rhodes.
Policy changes announced Tuesday will also mean more shipping and trade moving through he island. Special licenses will be granted for Cuban businesses to export goods to the U.S.
White House officials believe the new policy changes will put pressure on the Cuban government open up.
“It also could apply more pressure to the Cuban government to implement additional reforms to the Cuban economy,” said White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest.
CBS4’s Natalia Zea spoke with some South Floridians who said they appreciate the lighter restrictions.
“I think it will open new windows of opportunity between the two countries,” said Gustavo Rodriguez.
On the other hand, some have no plans to travel to Cuba until democracy is restored.
“My parents came here in 1960 leaving that, and I think we shouldn’t have much relations with them right now, until they make certain changes down there,” said Ernest Varela.
South Florida Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen condemned the announcement, releasing a statement that read in part, “U.S. policy must focus less on easing our regulations and more on putting pressure on the Castro brothers to un-clench its fists which oppress the Cuban people.”
This all comes ahead of President Obama’s historic visit to Cuba on March 21st.
A trip that has been under scrutiny – with critics saying the administration is ignoring human rights violations on the island.
It’s something Rhode’s says is an issue they plan to mention during the president’s trip to the island nation.
Rhodes said they will also continue to urge the Cuban government to loosen restrictions on their people and urge the U.S. to lift the embargo.
“The best way to support a better life for the Cuban people would be lifting the embargo,” said Rhodes. “We will continue to advocate for that policy.”
During a White House briefing Tuesday, the administration did acknowledge the Cuban government could do more to help renewed relations starting with getting rid of a 10 % penalty the government charges to use U.S. dollars on the island.