Obama Lets Americans Bring Home More Cuban Cigars and Rum

  • Administration to lift a $100 limit on personal imports
  • Importation for commercial purposes remains prohibited

A worker rolls cigars at a cigar factory during the week-long International Habano Cigar Festival on Feb. 26, 2015 in Havana, Cuba.

Americans traveling to Cuba will soon be able to bring home a lot more of the island’s famous cigars and rum.

The Obama administration said Friday it would increase the current $100 limit on the combined value of Cuban alcohol and tobacco products for Americans returning from the island. Starting Oct. 17, U.S. residents will be free to import as many as 100 Cuban cigars and 1 liter of Cuban rum, the same limits that apply to alcohol and tobacco products from other countries.

Also lifted will be the prohibition on importing for personal use Cuban cigars and rum procured in third countries. Importing Cuban cigars and rum for commercial purposes remains illegal.

The regulatory change, announced Friday, is part of the sixth round of eased sanctions since President Barack Obama re-opened relations with Cuba in December 2014. 

Cargo Ships, Pharmaceuticals

The administration also will lift limits on cargo ship travel between the U.S. and Cuba, ease importation of pharmaceutical products from Cuba, and allow joint medical research and U.S. work that assists infrastructure development in the Caribbean nation.

An administration official said this is likely to be the final revision of Cuba sanctions regulations while Obama is in office.

The administration in 2015 re-opened the U.S. embassy in Havana after 54 years, and since then it has allowed direct flights to and from the island to resume. Last spring, Obama became the first U.S. president to visit the country in 88 years.

The president said in a statement that the latest changes are “another major step forward in our efforts to normalize relations with Cuba,” and predicted that they would help “make our opening to Cuba irreversible.”

The U.S. Cuba embargo law remains in effect, though, and can only be lifted by Congress. The administration has urged repeal of the embargo, and Republicans in Congress have blocked legislation to end it.

The new regulations permit cargo ships to visit U.S. ports directly after docking in Cuba. Previously, cargo ships had been barred from the U.S. if they had visited Cuba within the previous 180 days.

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