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Break out the cigars: Obama lifts restrictions on Cuban products

Rum and cigar aficionados rejoice: American travelers visiting Cuba are no longer limited to $100 worth of Cuban alcohol and tobacco products.

The new Obama administration policy directive was announced Friday. It also eases collaboration on medical research between the U.S. and Cuba and lifts restrictions on cargo ship travel between the two nations.

“The objective of the new policy is to help the Cuban people to achieve a better future for themselves and to encourage the development of a partner in the region capable of working with the United States to confront regional challenges,” the directive read.

In January 2015, President Obama eased the restrictions on Cuban alcohol and tobacco products by allowing American travelers to return from the communist island with up to $100 of those products.

While the president can enact reforms, Congress still holds the power to lift the embargo. In the directive, President Obama called on lawmakers to officially end the embargo with Cuba, calling it “outdated.”

So far, the Obama administration has implemented six rounds of regulatory amendments to the Cuba sanctions, which were first implemented in 1960.

On Dec. 17, 2014, President Obama declared a détente with Cuba and became the first sitting president to visit the country since Calvin Coolidge in 1928 when Air Force One touched down on March 20, 2016.

In a statement on the directive, President Obama called the opening of relations with Cuba “irreversible.”

He added that, “Challenges remain – and very real differences between our governments persist on issues of democracy and human rights – but I believe that engagement is the best way to address those differences and make progress on behalf of our interests and values.”

U.S. National Security Advisor Susan Rice celebrated the policy directive, “And, saving the best for last, we are lifting the cap on imports of Cuban alcohol and tobacco … I thought that one would wake some folks up. You can literally break out the cigars to celebrate.”

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