Key points in Obama`s shift in Cuba policy

US President Barack Obama announced Wednesday he was ending the decades-old US policy of isolation toward Cuba, saying it has "failed."

AFP| Last Updated: Dec 18, 2014, 00:05 AM IST

Washington: US President Barack Obama announced Wednesday he was ending the decades-old US policy of isolation toward Cuba, saying it has "failed."

Among the changes, he will authorize the State Department to re-establish full diplomatic relations with the Communist-run island and ease economic sanctions imposed in the 1960s at the height of the Cold War.

Here are some of the key points in Obama`s new plans for Cuban relations:Havana and Washington have not had full diplomatic relations since 1961, with each country instead represented through an "Interests Section" in the other`s capital.

Obama said he will open a US embassy in Cuba and have high level diplomats carry out exchanges and visits, starting in January at the next round of US-Cuba Migration talks in Havana.Many Cubans rely on income from their relatives living in the United States, but in the past, these remittances has been limited to just $500 per quarter.

The new policy will increase the allowed amount fourfold, to $2,000 per quarter.US companies will now be able to sell to Cuba items including materials for building private homes, farm equipment, and goods Cuban entrepreneurs can use.

American citizens traveling to Cuba will also be allowed to bring back up to $400 worth of goods, including up to $100 worth of alcohol and tobacco products.

The US will also authorize its telecom companies to set up shop and build infrastructure in Cuba, and for the export of telecommunications hardware, software and services, in a bid to increase Internet access on the island, which has one of the world`s lowest rates of Internet use in the world.Only certain categories of travelers, including journalists, academics, government officials, and people with immediate family in Cuba, were allowed to travel to Cuba.

And in some cases, such as for freelance journalists, people participating in public performances, and for some export-related travel, a special application was required ahead of time.

Under the new policy, the advance application will no longer be required in many cases.

However, restrictions imposed by Congress will remain in place, including a ban on independent tourist travel to Cuba.US institutions will be allowed to open accounts in Cuban banks and US travelers will be allowed to use their credit and debit cards in Cuba.

Also, where before US agricultural goods exported to Cuba, allowed in a limited fashion for more than a decade, had to be fully paid before the shipment left US port, now the payment will only be required before "transfer of title," allowing greater flexibility in authorized trade with Cuba.The United States has since 1982 designated Cuba as a "State Sponsor of Terrorism," accusing it of harboring Colombian rebels, Basque militants and US fugitives.

Obama has ordered a review of this designation, with a report due in six months.