U.S. Treasury Department Revises Travel Regulations To Cuba Ahead of President Obama’s Historic trip

Americans have been known to have a long-standing infatuation with the unattainable. Cuba — Havana, specifically — has long been atop our list of prohibited desires.

The fantasy of an exotic paradise that’s bathed in golden rum and occupied by the exclusive aroma of its famed cigars; its people — much like its buildings — painted in vibrant personalities.

For decades, Americans have been shut out from the Cuban country due to its Communist regime. In that time, the depths of Cuba’s culture have been explored and romanticized by Hollywood, leaving Americans in awe and with a thirst that only a few glasses of rum can attempt to quench, until now.

On Tuesday, the U.S. Treasury Department announced its decision to loosen its grip on the restrictions it has on the communist island nation, making it easier for Americans to travel to the nation, along with improving our country’s relationship with Cuba and its people.

Prior to the announcement, American travelers were afforded the opportunity to visit Cuba solely in groups that were in line with and approved by U.S. government regulations. The amended regulations, however, now offer U.S. travelers a much more lenient route to exploring the once forbidden paradise and its people.

Travelers can now embark individually by using the trip down south as an educational tour that includes a full schedule of educational activities focused on enhancing contact with the Cuban people, along with supporting civil society in Cuba. So long as they document these activities, travelers will not require special permission from the United States government to go and come as they please to the island.

According to the press release issued by the Treasury Department, the amendment is meant to make educational travel to Cuba more accessible and affordable for U.S. citizens while encouraging direct engagement between Cubans and Americans.

The news comes just days before President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama take a three-day trip to the nation. Obama will be the first sitting President to visit Cuba since Calvin Coolidge’s visit in 1928.

U.S. President Barack Obama (R) and President Raul Castro (L) of Cuba shake hands during a bilateral meeting at the United Nations Headquarters on September 29, 2015 in New York City. Castro and Obama are in New York City to attend the 70th anniversary general assembly meetings. (Photo by Anthony Behar-Pool/Getty Images)
U.S. President Barack Obama (R) and President Raul Castro (L) of Cuba (Photo by Anthony Behar-Pool/Getty Images)

While many believe the trip to be a symbol of respect and hope for future progress in relations between the two nations, a push by Americans and Cuban officials has led to an agreement on a series of deals before President Obama’s visit.

Along with the revised travel regulations, a deal has been agreed upon that will allow Cuban citizens to earn a salary in the United States, along with providing an avenue that makes it easier for Cubans to use dollars in financial transactions with American banks.

Both financial deals play a pivotal role for Cuban baseball players, who aspire to play in the Major Leagues without having to defect from their country first. It is something many had hoped would come to fruition with the news of Obama attending the match between the MLB’s Tampa Bay Rays and the Cuban National team in Havana on March 22.

Treasury Secretary Jack Lew has since labeled the recent regulation revisions as a way to empower the Cuban nation.

“We continue to break down economic barriers, empower the Cuban people and advance their financial freedom,”

The Treasury Department also noted that the two countries would resume postal service on Wednesday (3/17) after five decades of interrupted service due in part to the United States’ attempt to isolate the Fidel Castro-led government.

So, while Americans might not be able to dive into the exotic fantasy of rum and cigars just yet, the amendments announced Tuesday offer American citizens an even better opportunity to invest and educate themselves on the people and culture behind the iconic island.

(Photo by Carl Court/Getty Images)