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U.S. Approves Ferry Service From Florida To Cuba

A taxi driver steers his classic American car along the Malecon at sunrise in Havana, Cuba.
Desmond Boylan
A taxi driver steers his classic American car along the Malecon at sunrise in Havana, Cuba.

The United States issued licenses for ferry service between the United States and Cuba for the first time in five decades.

The South Florida Sun-Sentinel reports the Treasury Department issued at least four licenses to companies that want to establish ferry service to Cuba from Key West, Miami, Fort Lauderdale and perhaps even Tampa.

The paper reports:

"'I'm very excited, because this is a historical event in U.S.-Cuba relations,' said Havana Ferry's managing partner, Leonard Moecklin Sr.

"The ferry companies plan to offer trips that would be less expensive than charter flights, while allowing more luggage free. Many Cuban-Americans haul down hefty supplies for family homes and new private businesses."

While an embargo remains in place, the Obama administration has been loosening some restrictions against the island. Back in December, President Obama and Cuban President Raúl Castro announced that they would seek to reestablish diplomatic relations after decades of estrangement.

Since then, the Obama administration has loosened some restrictions on travel, remittances and the sale of telecommunication equipment to the island. Most recently, the White House informed Congress that itintended to remove Cuba from the list of state sponsors of terrorism.

The Wall Street Journal reports that renewing ferry service between Florida and Cuba would "ease the people-to-people contact that is a cornerstone of Mr. Obama's policy of engagement."

The paper adds:

"'It is an important symbol that re-establishing of relations with Cuba is a legacy project for Obama,' said Robert Muse, a lawyer who represents one of the three companies. 'He is going as far and as fast as possible.'"

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Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.