Old Havana, Cuba. Photo: Creative Commons/Jialiang Gao
Wed, Aug 18, 2010 5:48 PM EDT

Travel restrictions from the U.S. into Cuba may be loosened as early as September, White House officials told the New York Times this week.

Word is the Obama administration is set to announce that it will ease travel restrictions for academic researchers, and religious and cultural groups that were set in place by President George W. Bush. The restrictions would look more the way they did during President Clinton's administration, when the U.S. cultivated "people to people" policies that allowed athletes, musicians, artists and academics to travel to and from Cuba.

"We will continue to pursue policies that advance the U.S. national interest," The New York Times reports White House spokesman Mike Hammer said in a statement, "And support the Cuban people's desire to freely determine their country's future." The Cuban American lobby, led by Sen. Robert Menendez from New Jersey, has already expressed its disagreement with the proposed policy. Menendez and other critics say it would allow more people to send money to Fidel Castro's regime.

The administration is soldiering on though. The only question now seems to be the timing around the announcement. Some worry announcements will not be made until after midterm elections in November, but other congressional insiders have said that the policy may be announced before Congress returns from its mid-September recess.

In 2009, President Obama also made it easier for Cuban-Americans to travel and send money back to family in the country. These revised travel restrictions would not touch the decades long trade embargo, though. That policy is not up for debate right now.

Here now, a look at the effects of the U.S. embargo on Cuban life and economy.

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