By Jane Engle Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
April 21, 2011, 10:24 a.m.
The U.S. Treasury Department on Thursday issued new guidelines for
travel to Cuba, more than three months after President Obama announced
he would loosen restrictions that bar most Americans from legally
visiting the Communist island.
The action frees up U.S. organizations to apply for new licenses to
organize Cuba trips and also clarifies which U.S. citizens may travel to
Cuba without applying for a Treasury Department license. Most Americans,
however, are still barred from legally visiting Cuba, except for
specific purposes that are outlined in the guidelines. (Technically,
it's not illegal for Americans to visit Cuba. They just can't spend
money there, under a longstanding U.S. trade embargo.)
The biggest change in the rules, which were announced in January by
Obama, is restoring licenses for so-called people-to-people educational
exchanges, which the Bush administration had suspended several years
ago. These rather broadly worded licenses had opened up Cuba travel to
far more Americans.
When such licenses were in effect, Global Exchange, a San Francisco
nonprofit, was sending nearly 2,000 people a year to Cuba for a range of
programs -- bicycle tours as well as language programs -- said Malia
Everette, director of the Reality Tours division. After the licenses
were suspended, that fell to fewer than 100 in 2004, she said.
Reality Tours was waiting for the Treasury Department to issue the new
guidelines so that it could apply for a new license and advertise new
trips to Cuba, she said.
Other changes announced by Obama affect rules for educational travel,
religiously oriented travel and journalism-related travel, among other
types of travel to Cuba. The changes also expand the number of airports
allowed to provide charter air service to Cuba.