U.S. removes limits on bringing in Cuban rum, cigars


The Obama administration announced Friday that it is eliminating a $100 limit on the value of Cuban rum and cigars that American travelers can bring back from the island.

The administration is also lifting limits on cargo ship travel between the U.S. and Cuba and easing U.S. and Cuban researchers’ ability to conduct joint medical research. The measures are contained in a package of relatively small-scale regulatory changes meant to ease U.S. trade with Cuba.

The Obama administration has now made six sets of changes loosening the U.S. trade embargo on Cuba in the hopes that the normalization of relations with the island will not be reversed by a future administration. This round is expected to be the last before President Barack Obama leaves office.

Cuban rum and cigars will now be subject to the same duties as alcohol and tobacco from other countries, meaning most travelers will be able to bring back as many as 100 cigars and several bottles of rum. Because high-end Cuban cigars can sell for more than $100 apiece outside Cuba, every U.S. traveler can now legally bring back many thousands of dollars of Cuban products, potentially generating hundreds of millions of dollars in new annual revenue for the Cuban state.

The change does not mean that Cuban rum and cigars will be available for sale in the U.S. — the change is aimed at tobacco and alcohol brought home for personal use.

The previous limit restricted travelers to a combined value of $100 in rum and cigars, although enforcement of the limit notably declined after President Barack Obama declared detente with Cuba on Dec. 17, 2014.

The administration has described its policy goal as aimed at helping the Cuban people improve their lives by winning greater economic and political freedom from the single-party state.

“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 in a statement announcing the changes.

Rum and cigar production is entirely government-run under Cuba’s centrally planned communist economy. While the first regulatory changes focused narrowly on helping Cuba’s growing private sector, Friday’s new rules are almost entirely aimed at similarly state-run industries including shipping and medical products.

The package of regulatory changes announced Friday also allows cargo ships to visit U.S. ports directly after docking in Cuba. They had been barred from U.S. ports for 180 days after visiting Cuba. Cuba blamed that measure for harming its ability to import and export and dampening hopes that a new military-run port in the city of Mariel could serve as a major link in the regional cargo shipping system.

A senior Obama administration official said the new regulations’ focus on Cuban state enterprise should not be interpreted as a shift away from helping ordinary Cubans.

“We have designed the policy very much to have the maximum benefit to the Cuban people, broadly, but in so doing we are not restricting engagement with the Cuban state. That has been clear since Dec. 17, 2014,” the official said in a conference call with reporters held on condition of anonymity. “The Cuban people continue to be at the center of everything we’re doing.”

More than 160,000 American travelers visited Cuba last year and that figure is expected to double this year. Hundreds of thousands of Cuban-Americans visit family on the island each year and will also be able to take advantage of the new measure, which comes a month and a half before the restart of commercial flights to Havana after more than 50 years.


Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Travel

How far your money goes on the low-cost airlines

Perhaps you’ve been intrigued by the affordable (and in some cases downright cheap) fares being dangled lately by low-cost, long-haul carriers like Norwegian, Level and XL Airways. Fleeting introductory fares for a handful of cities are one thing, but everyday fares in and out of major hubs are another.  Let’s take a look at what you...
The Edward Gorey House on Cape Cod is the good kind of ghastly
The Edward Gorey House on Cape Cod is the good kind of ghastly

There lies George, his lifeless legs poking out from beneath a rug. An unfortunate death, to be sure, but it could have been worse. An entire case holding thousands of theater ticket stubs could have fallen on him, flattening the poor boy like an anvil.  Edward Gorey might have been macabre, but he wasn't cruel.   The Edward Gorey House...
Talk travel: Is a 'risky connection' worth the risk?

The Washington Post's travel writers and editors recently discussed stories, questions, gripes and more. Here are edited excerpts:  Q: I was reviewing an airline reservation that I made more than a month ago and realize my connecting flight was listed as a risky connection. I am assuming this means there is a great chance of me missing my connecting...
What to read before you hit Europe’s museums

As anyone who has been to the Louvre in Paris or the Museo Nacional del Prado in Madrid knows, these institutions can have an outsize effect on a city. Travelers are drawn by the art, of course, but also by the architecture and historical relics within its walls. Below, one book looks at how old master paintings have influenced the development of museums...
Travel gear: rooftop tent for your car for convenience camping
Travel gear: rooftop tent for your car for convenience camping

Who knew you could enjoy a camping experience and still get a penthouse view? The Yakima SkyRise 3 Rooftop Tent delivers on its name, with a tent that is pitched atop your car via an ingenious design that uses your vehicle’s roof rack to support itself and the happy campers. Yakama has used its decades of experience in manufacturing racks to...
More Stories