MIAMI - Attention U.S. travelers going abroad: You now can bring home all the Cuban rum and cigars you want.
The Obama administration announced Friday a new round of executive actions designed to increase trade and travel with the communist island. And this is the one many Americans have been waiting for — no more restrictions on the island's famed rum and cigars.
Under the new rules, travelers can purchase unlimited quantities of Cuban rum and cigars in any country where they are sold so long as they are for personal consumption. Sorry American couch potatoes: You can't order Cuban rum and cigars online and have them shipped to your home.
The regulations issued by the U.S. departments of Commerce and Treasury will make it easier for U.S. companies to import Cuban-made pharmaceuticals, U.S. agricultural companies to sell their products to the island and Cubans to purchase U.S.-made goods online.
The changes follow a series of steps taken since President Obama and Cuban President Raúl Castro announced on Dec. 17, 2014, that the Cold War foes would normalize relations after more than a half century of enmity.
On Friday, Obama added to the regulatory changes with a presidential policy directive that outlines his Cuba strategy thus far and lays out the future course. It includes a call for Congress to rescind a 50-year-old economic embargo on the island, something lawmakers have been unwilling to do so long as the Castro regime suppresses political and other freedoms.
The goal of the new regulations and policy directive are to make Obama's Cuba policy "irreversible" by establishing so many relationships with Cuba that a future administration wanting to scale back those ties would face widespread opposition from U.S. businesses and citizens.
"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," Obama said. "The progress of the last two years, bolstered by today's action, should remind the world of what's possible when we look to the future together."
The most noticeable — and likely most welcome — change for most Americans is the removal of the five-decade ban on Cuban rum and cigars. The Obama administration partially lifted that ban in January 2015, allowing Americans traveling directly to Cuba to return home with up to $100 in rum and cigars in their carry-on luggage.
Now, that monetary restriction is removed and U.S. citizens can purchase as much Cuban tobacco and alcohol as they want from anywhere they find the products abroad. That means all those Cuban bottles and boxes at duty free shops in foreign airports are fair game. The only restriction, according to Treasury: "Normal limits on duty and tax exemptions will apply."
All the changes go into effect Monday.