WASHINGTON, Jan. 15 (UPI) -- The Obama administration announced a further easing Friday of travel to Cuba by U.S. religious and cultural groups and students.
Only Cuban-Americans, journalists and a few people in other categories have been allowed to visit the island nation recently. The change in regulations will also allow U.S. citizens to donate up to $2,000 a year to Cuban religious organizations and to help Cubans with small businesses, The Washington Post reported.
Former President George W. Bush clamped down on travel to Cuba and on sending money there. Regulations like those President Barack Obama has ordered were in place under former President Bill Clinton.
"We see these changes as increasing people-to-people contact, helping strengthen Cuban civil society and frankly making Cuban people less dependent on the Cuban state," a senior administration official told reporters.
U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., the chairwoman of the Foreign Affairs Committee and one of the most prominent Cuban-American politicians, disagreed.
"These changes will not aid in ushering in respect for human rights," she said. "And they certainly will not help the Cuban people free themselves from the tyranny that engulfs them".
A Communist Party Congress scheduled for April is expected to allow more private enterprise in Cuba, the Post said. UPI