The U.S. Senate passed a bill on Tuesday that would relax some limits on contacts with Cuba, in what could herald deeper changes to the long-standing U.S. policy of shunning the communist-ruled island.
The Obama administration had to cajole two members of its own Democratic party to support the legislation containing the Cuba provisions, a massive spending bill that had to pass to keep the U.S. government running.
The episode raised questions about how easy it will be for Obama to change Cuba policy, which officials have indicated they would like to do. An administration review is under way now.
Many senior U.S. lawmakers also want a rethink of policy on Cuba, that was designed to isolate Fidel Castro after he seized power in a revolution half a century ago. They say that since Castro retired last year, it is time to review that policy.
A cash-in-advance requirement for agricultural sales to Cuba would still be required by law, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, while only a "narrow class" of businesses would be eligible to travel to Cuba to market and sell agricultural and medical goods.
"Exporters will still be required to receive payment in advance of shipment and will not be permitted to export to Cuba other than through third-party banks," Geithner wrote.
The legislation, which had previously cleared the House of Representatives, would also allow members of Cuban-American families to travel once a year to Cuba instead of once every three years.
The National Foreign Trade Council, a business group that supports an end to the Cuba embargo, welcomed the changes as a "small but important" start to changing policy toward Havana.
"Congress has opened the door to further policy change on Cuba," the council's vice president for global trade issues, Jake Colvin, said in a statement.
Güncelleme Tarihi: 11 Mart 2009, 14:13