On March 16, the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) published a final rule that further facilitates travel to Cuba, authorizes additional types of financial transactions and allows companies to have a greater business presence on the island. The latest changes represent yet another small step towards normalization, building upon four past rounds of regulatory amendments that began over a year ago.

While the president cannot unilaterally abolish the Cuban Assets Control Regulations (CACR) sanctions regime absent congressional action, over the past 16 months he has used his authority to normalize economic and political relations between the two countries as much as possible through executive action. The latest amendments were announced days before President Obama’s historic trip to Cuba – the first time a sitting U.S. president visited the island in 88 years. Despite the administration’s inability to remove all sanctions without Congressional approval, it made the president’s intentions to push the envelope as much as possible clear prior to his trip, saying that the visit will be aimed at rendering the normalization process “irreversible.”

An exhibition game between Major League Baseball’s Tampa Bay Rays and the Cuban national team, and a Rolling Stones concert in Havana were two events that suggest many Cubans and Americans support the president’s goal of reconciliation.

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