Carlos Alberto Santos / CC BY 2.0

On Friday, the White House loosened rules governing travel, commerce and investments in Cuba in a fulfillment of President Obama’s goal of removing barriers between Washington and Havana.

However, an American embargo remains in place.

The New York Times reports:

The rules will allow American companies, including telecommunications and Internet providers, to open locations and hire workers in Cuba, facilitate financial transactions between the two nations and remove limits on the sums that can be taken to the island nation. They are to take effect on Monday on the eve of the visit to Washington by Pope Francis, a proponent of the reconciliation who quietly helped broker the agreement between Mr. Obama and President Raúl Castro last year.

Mr. Obama spoke to Mr. Castro by telephone on Friday to discuss the normalization process before the pope traveled to Cuba on Saturday and then to the United States on Tuesday, the White House said. In addition to praising the pope’s role in their rapprochement, the two presidents “discussed steps that the United States and Cuba can take, together and individually, to advance bilateral cooperation,” an official said, even as they continue to have differences on important issues and “will address those differences candidly.”

Administration officials said Mr. Obama was still hoping that Congress would take action to lift the travel and trade embargo, although senior aides to the president offered a grim assessment of the chances that it would happen in the short term.

“I don’t think we’ve seen a whole lot of evidence to indicate that those prospects have significantly improved,” said Josh Earnest, the White House press secretary. Still, he said, the rules would deepen connections among Cubans and Americans in the interim and expose Cuba’s citizens to American values while helping United States businesses.

Read more here.

— Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly.

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