US President Obama lands in Cuba; US hotel to open in Cuba

Alicia Nicholls

According to a CNN news report, United States President Barack Obama landed in Cuba on Sunday. President Obama’s three-day visit to Cuba marks the first time in more than eighty years that a sitting US president has stepped foot on Cuban soil. The US president, who is accompanied by first lady Michelle Obama and daughters Malia and Sasha, was greeted upon arrival by top Cuban officials.

In related news US hotel chain Starwood has reached an agreement to open the first US hotel in Cuba since the embargo. According to this BBC report, Starwood will renovate and operate three hotels in Havana.

Rapprochement

President Obama’s visit is the latest in a series of steps taken by his administration since December 2014 towards normalising relations between the US and Cuba. These steps have involved the progressive removal of some travel and trade restrictions and include:

  • Allowing individual travel by US citizens to Cuba for educational “people to people” purposes, although a general travel ban remains in effect
  • Approval of a ferry service between the US and Cuba
  • Allowing US bank accounts for Cuban nationals
  • Re-opening of US embassy in Havana
  • Lifting of restrictions on export financing
  • Agreement to resume commercial air links between the US and Cuba. Several US airlines have already signed up.

A full list of the restrictions eased are available in a press release issued by the US Treasury and Commerce Departments.

However, despite the President’s calls for congress to lift the decades-old embargo, it remains.

More will be posted as the story develops.

Alicia Nicholls, B.Sc., M.Sc., LL.B. is a trade and development consultant with a keen interest in sustainable development, international law and trade. You can also read more of her commentaries and follow her on Twitter @LicyLaw.

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