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Monday
Jan172011

Cuba Welcomes US Easing Travel Rules, But Calls Policy 'Absurd'

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(HAVANA, Cuba) -- The Cuban government Monday welcomed the Obama administration's decision on Friday to ease restrictions on Americans who want to travel and send money back to Cuba, but noted with disdain that the embargo remained in place.

"If there was a true interest in expanding and easing the contacts between our two peoples, the United States should lift the blockade and the prohibition that makes of Cuba the only country that U.S. citizens cannot freely travel to," the Cuban foreign ministry said in a statement.

While calling last week's actions "positive," the ministry said the United States' restrictions on travel to the island are "absurd" and said the change "is also an expression of the admission of the failure of the U.S. policy against Cuba and that the U.S. government is seeking new ways to achieve its historical goal of dominating the Cuban people."

On Friday, President Obama rolled back some travel restrictions, in place since 2003, to allow students and religious groups to visit Cuba and to allow charter flights to the island to depart from all U.S. airports. The new guidelines also allow Americans to send up to $500 per quarter to non-family members in the communist country.

Friday's move also raised the ire of several lawmakers on Capitol Hill, particularly many Cuban-American members of Congress such as the new chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., who said the "changes undermine U.S. foreign policy and security objectives and will bring economic benefits to the Cuban regime."

An ABC News/Washington Post poll in April 2009 found the majority of Americans -- 55 percent -- supported easing all travel restrictions to Cuba. The same poll also found 57 percent support for ending the trade embargo and 66 percent support for establishing diplomatic relations.

The Obama administration has taken steps to re-establish dialogue with the Cuban government. The two sides held the latest round of talks on migration in Havana last week.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio







ABC News Radio